The Autobiography of Simon Lake
As told to
D. APPLETON-CENTURY COMPANY
NEW YORK LONDON
All rights reserved. This book, or parts
thereof, must not be reproduced in any
form without permission of the publisher.
PERHAPS no man in the past century has had as
much to do with the shape of history as Simon
Lake. That statement is intended as a query rather than
as a statement of fact. It may be debatable, but it is also
He is responsible for the modern submarine.
The World War pivoted on him. Not on the Kaiser or
Lloyd George or Hindenburg or Wilson or LudendorfL
He had nothing to do with the provocations or the set-
tlements. He was an engineer almost unknown except on
the coast of New Jersey and in a few capitals of Europe.
His sympathies were not warmly engaged for either of
the parties to the conflict. Not until the United States
entered the war was he greatly stirred.
Yet the pitch-pine boat he stitched and screwed and
nailed together as a boy rattled a mighty empire. Great
Britain's crown as Queen of the Seas almost slipped off
her imperial head. If she had gone down, France must
have gone with her. The consequences of such a collapse
are now incalculable. To-day's world may have been no
worse than it is, but it must have been almost insanely
The brutalities of submarine warfare aroused the gen-
erous and sentimental people of the United States.
Americans had had no cause to love Great Britain except
that many traced their blood lines to quiet villages in the
shires. A synthetic affection for France had been built up
through a complete misunderstanding of the part France
had played toward us. We were drenched with Allied
propaganda, and the German side of the case was muted.
Yet we would in all probability have been able to main-
tain an attitude of detached partiality if the Germans
had not turned barbarian with their submarines.
It was Simon Lake this almost unknown engineer on
the Jersey coast who was wholly responsible for the sub-
marine. It is not fair to say that some other man might
have done what Simon Lake did. The fact is that there
was no such other man. The modern submarine stems
from his pitch-pine boat as surely as the oak does from
the acorn. There is no one to share his distinction.
When we entered the war, the Allies were beaten. No
candid person conversant with the facts will attempt to
deny that now. The Americans reenforced the faltering
Allies with men and money and munitions, but more
than all with a reckless courage and an unthinking
prodigality and a complete disregard for obstacles. They
did not follow the rules of war but they won their
Germany was defeated primarily because Simon Lake's
submarine brought us into the war.
The part we took in the World War cost us forty bil-
lions of dollars, more or less. After being a Santa Glaus,
the United States became a Shylock to the eyes of our un-
willing debtors. A boom based on inflation was followed
by a collapse due to deflation. Ever-rising taxes galled a
people who had hardly been tax-conscious before the
war. Social unrest, the mouthings of demagogues, ap-
palling extravagances by money-drunk oflicials from vil-
lage to capital dangerously strained the American politi-
A weakened and uncertain America lost something of
its power to aid and comfort a frightened and confused
world. Behind a screen of submarines Japan felt com-
petent to defy other major powers when a sprawling
China seemed again open to attack. Italy armed with
submarines was able to assert a claim to the Mediterra-
nean as her sea. France and Great Britain were reluc-
tantly forced to embark on a great navy-building
program. Pirate submarines clandestinely aided Franco's
rebel forces in Spain. All over the world the little powers
on the edge of the waters added submarines to their
coastal defenses. In past days a rusty cruiser armed with
a few light guns could set such little powers shivering in
their boots. The submarine has redressed the balance.
Elaborate protections are required now to ward off evil-
smelling, clanking, rattling, slimy little sea-vipers. They
are deadly dangerous and they are comparatively cheap.
Simon Lakeno other man is responsible for these
changes in the form of history.
He found the submarine a bouncing, uncontrollable,
suicidal, useless craft and made it into the arm most
feared by the world's navies. In more than forty years he,
and he alone, taught it to dive and steer, shaped its hull,
gave it eyes, put guns on its turrets, and arranged such
a compromise between comfort and exhaustion that its
crews are able to keep the seas. Of the one hundred and
eleven patents he took out for incorporation in the mod-
ern submarine, twenty-five are to-day in use in every sub-
marine in the world. No submarine could make a voyage
or see an enemy or fire a gunor live, for that matter
except by using the Lake patents. The protective period
has long ago expired, of course. No royalties are being
paid. But they are the blood and veins and sinews of
the dark monster that has literally and in fact upset a
picture whose background was roughed in when men
Lake sees the fifty-million-dollar battleships of to-day
as ponderous steel house-boats which provide dancing
platforms for Navy Night and luxurious suites for ad-
mirals but are quite useless in wartime. Not merely use-
less, but an actual drain upon the resources of the coun-
try which must pay for and man and paint and in war-
time protect them from the submarine. He foresees
submarine navies, provisioned from submarine depots,
silent and invisible. He anticipates trade routes fur-
nished with submarine cargo- and passenger-carriers, and
voyages made under the ice to the North Pole in comfort
and safety, so that no school-girl need suffer; and possibly
romantic ventures to the depths of the sea where may be
found a lost continent.
Do these things seem absurd?
Then read that a great marine engineer, after opposing
some of Lake's plans, finally conceded his own defeat.
"Your gadgets are all wrong according to the books/'
he said. "But the dickens of it is that they work."
It may be that he did not change the course of history.
It is possible that the Germanic powers would have been
defeated and that the United States would have entered
the war if no one had ever heard of unterseeboots, or
torpedoes, or the Lusitania. The evidence is that he did.
And he invented and improved his submarine creations
in the face of every obstacle, impeded by his own govern-
ment, so hard-up at times that work once stopped because
he could not pay a $17 debt, opposed by every brass-
hatted official horrified by meeting a new idea face to
face. He was robbed and laughed at and humiliated and
in the end triumphant. He has made fortunes and lost
He could refuse two and one-half million dollars of-
fered for his signature to a blind contract. He could
spend a summer trying to find a lost treasure ship. He
refused to buy the top of Signal Hill, under which more
oil was hidden than in any other dome recorded in the
story of the great petroleum adventure, and has never
worried a second about the pocketful of millions he lost.
He made a door-to-door canvass in New York for the
backing he could not find, and refused a Russian con-
tract that promised an immediate fortune because he
could not endure the Muscovite morals. He is stubborn
and Puritanic and persistent and modest.
It is doubtful, on the whole, that any one in this world
has ever had a better time.
If the scales were balanced, it is probable that the sub-
marine would be found to be an instrument of mercy
rather than of murder during the World War. It made
the bombardment of coastal towns a gamble in which
the dice were cogged against the bombarders. If the
command of the seas had rested on big-ship power,
thousands more men would have died, but the big ships
were not risked. Not every submarine commander was a
foul savage at heart. Most of them gave the stubbornly
brave seamen who navigated rusty little slow steamers
laden with food toward British ports a chance to escape
with their lives. The submarine was slandered, after all,
not because it was an illegal weapon every nation ac-
cepted it but because it endangered England.
But Simon Lake's place in history does not depend
entirely on his creature of the dark waters. It is only that
the submarine has been his most spectacular creation.
Of his fifteen hundred patents I say fifteen hundred,
not even Simon Lake could give the number off-hand-
others are perhaps quite as important as the one hundred
and eleven that have to do with the submarine. He found
an idea in an old powderhorn and made it into an
airlock, and that airlock made New York's under-river
tunnels possible. He improved the old break-neck high-
wheeled bicycle by giving it a safe steering gear, and
that gear keeps the automobiles of America out of the
ditches today. His patents for prefabricated houses ante-
dated all others, else how could he have gotten patent
papers? Because he had no time to give it, he neglected
a plan of treatment by vacuum which might be claimed
as the ancestor of to-day's "iron lung."
He has preserved an extraordinary simplicity of man-
ner. Short, inclined toward stoutness, gray-haired, he
peers at the world through his right eye. When the left
eye must be called on, a drooping lid is propped by a
wire frame that has the effect of a monocle. The eye is
sound, but the muscles were injured while he worked
of his periscope. He chuckles at merry recollections. He
has never found it necessary to be profane. Men obey
well enough. It does not fret his dignity to explain an
order. If he has been wrong, he is delighted to be put
right. Men who have been with him for a length of
time call him "Simon." He detests "skrimshankers and
belly-achers" and labor racketeers and bargaining poli-
ticians. He belongs to the old school in which were men
who paid their debts and did not argue that a world
can waste its way out of misery and who worked hard
and saved and valued possessions less than self-respect.
The two compliments he seems to have valued most came
from an Austrian admiral and an American mechanic.
For twenty-five years Popper had, been the chief con-
structor of the Austrian navy. He had designed a sub-
marine of his own and was about to built it when he
met Lake and talked over plans. Later he said:
"You may be interested to know how you happened
to get your first order from Austria."
Lake was interested, of course.
"I went to Emperor Franz Joseph," said Popper, "and
told him about you, and asked permission to give you a
contract. I said, 'His boat is better than mine/ "
He recognized the mechanic's voice through the hang-
ings of a restaurant booth one night. A newly hired man
wanted to know about his new boss:
"What kind of a man is Lake to work for?"
"I'll tell you about the Governor," said an old hand.
"We'd go to hell for him."
I. A SMALL RED-HEADED BOY ... i
II. INVENTION RUNS IN THE LAKE BLOOD 10
III. BEFRIENDING THE OYSTER PIRATES . 23
IV. FIRST CONTACT WITH BIG BUSINESS . 33
V. REPULSED BY THE NAVY .... 45
VL A SUBMARINE BUILT OF PITCH PINE . 55
VII. WORLD'S FIRST SUCCESSFUL SUBMARINE 65
VIII. CASE-HARDENING AN INVENTOR . . 78
IX. THE DEVIL IN THE RIVER .... 87
X. COLD FEET COST LAKE THREE MIL-
LION DOLLARS 98
XL THE ARGONAUT MAKES GOOD . .110
XII. ICE-WATER CURE FOR PNEUMONIA . 118
XIII. SUCCESS IN SALVAGING SUNKEN CAR-
XIV. INVENTION OF THE PERISCOPE . . 138
XV. BIG TROUBLE REALLY BEGINS FOR THE
LAKE COMPANY 153
XVI. RUSSIA BUYS THE LAKE SUBMARINES 164
XVII. SMUGGLING THE LAKE BOAT ACROSS
THE SEA 176
XVIII. GOSPODIN SIMON DELIVERS THE GOODS 186
XIX. COURSE OF NAVAL HISTORY ALMOST
XX. INVENTOR is GYPPED BY THE GERMANS 204
XXI. HUNTING FOR THE LUTINE'S TREASURE 216
XXII. How BUSINESS MEN MAKE WAR . . 225
XXIII. UNITED STATES STILL OWES MONEY 240
XXIV. THE FIRST CARGO-CARRYING SUB-
XXV. BRITISH SENTIMENTALITY PAYS DIVI-
XXVI. SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF IN-
XXVII. FREIGHT- AND PASSENGER-CARRYING
SUBMARINES IN THE FUTURE . . 285
XXVIII. A CONFESSION OF FAILURE . . . 292
Simon Lake frontispiece
The Argonaut Junior 60
A modern submarine 60
Cross-section view of a mine-planting submarine . 134
Sketch of the Lake Salvaging Tube 134
Two famous inventors: Hiram Percy Maxim and
Simon Lake 158
The Protector 178
Interior view of a modern submarine .... 236
Simon Lake with Captain Koenig, Commander of
the Deutschland 254
The Nautilus 288
Chart showing the sinking of Allied and neutral
ships in one year of the World War in the area
surrounding the British Isles 252
A Small Red-Headed Boy
THINK it is nonsensical for me to write my
autobiography at this time. I am only seventy-
one years old and I have not accomplished one half
the things I wish to do. I have been talked into it.
I began life as a bad boy. Nowadays social workers
would probably call me a problem child. I was a red-
headed little Ishmaelite who hated every one and was
hated in return. I was continually in trouble which I
originated, conducted personally, and usually paid
for by stripes and solitary confinement on stools and
in closets. I do not remember ever having been at all
sorry for the devilish things I did. Nor do I recall
that I ever surrendered to superior force. My young
head was often metaphorically bloody, but it was not
My mother died when I was three years old and my
father left me in the care of my jtep-grandmodier at
Pleasantville, New Jersey, and went West. My step-
grandmother was a puritan of the rigid old school. She
emphatically believed that children were to be seen
and not heard and that a spared rod meant a spoiled
child. Each morning she read a chapter from the
Bible, and then the household remained on its knees
while she wrestled mightily with the Lord in prayer.
I am sure that I benefited by her severe discipline in
the end, but the immediate result was that I started
for school each morning with anger in my heart and
returned home each afternoon surly and defiant.
At school the fighting started promptly on my ar-
rival. Looking backward I can see that I was a savage,
bitter little figure of fun. My step-grandmother was a
good woman and a just one but she lacked sym-
pathetic comprehension for a child's troubles. During
my first year I wore a pair of my grandfather's old
trousers which had been stagged off at the knee but
had not been shaped to my small form; they were of
themselves an invitation to practically continuous
battling. Add to that the fact that my hair was bel-
ligerently red and that my face was one huge freckle
through which ran a network of pale lines. The
braver boys pulled my hair and did the best they
could in the fight that followed. Sometimes they
threw things at me. The girls chanted a rime I still
Simon, Simon, sucks eggs-
Sold his wife for duck's eggs.
I had, quite literally, no friends at school in the
first few years, nor did I try to make any. My teachers
saw in me only a little red-headed devil who had a
part in every disturbance. If I was not fighting I was
setting others on to fight or planning some impish
violation of the established order. They were of the
old school, too that was sixty-four years ago and
heavy-handed. I might tell the story of one day as I
A SMALL RED-HEADED BOY g
remember it, not because it was exceptional al-
though it was but because it illustrates the peda-
gogic method in use in Pleasantville. I had done
something I should not have done. I do not recall
what it was, but I was distinctly at fault.
"Simon," ordered Teacher Rogers, "stand at your
I liked that. It gave me a chance to show off.
Whenever Rogers took his eyes off me for a second
I made a face or twisted my body or popped a paper
wad at one of the other pupils. Rogers could not
catch me, but he knew what was going on.
"Go up forward," he ordered, "and stand on my
I changed my tactics. Wearing a face as angelically
innocent as possible under my handicap of freckles,
I moved my feet a fraction of an inch at a time, until
I managed to knock over the teacher's big bottle of
ink, from which he filled the bottles on our desks.
Rogers slapped me hard, from behind, and although
I had known precisely what was going to happen I
could not have seen those tense faces and popped eyes
on the floor below me without knowing I pretended
to be startled and kicked out and hit him hard, in a
tender place. Then he lost his temper.
I do not know what it was he growled under his
breath. But he took a scarf from one of the girls, tied
it under my arms, and hung me up, crucifixion fash-
ion, to a huge nail from which the map of the United
States had been hanging for the geography class. The
school watched me, horrified. Teacher Rogers turned
his back to walk to his desk. I made a circular swing
with one stoutly shod foot and kicked out the win-
dow. Rogers snatched me from the wall, white-faced
"I'll fix you!" he said.
He locked me in the dark closet under the stairs,
where the janitor kept the brooms, buckets, and
other paraphernalia of his office and Rogers hung his
hat and coat during school hours. I was hardly in it
before I was out again, for I found out how to turn
the key in the big, old-fashioned lock. Opening the
door admitted light to the closet and I made some
discoveries. There was a pot of lampblack, for one
thing, and with it I blacked the banisters down which
the children used to slide at recess. The amount of
harm this did to their clothes later proved to be al-
most incalculable. Rogers' dinner pail was on the
closet shelf, and as a matter of course I ate his din-
ner. Then I closed the closet door upon myself and
waited upon events. The lunch hour was almost over
before Rogers came to me.
"You won't have time now to go home for your
lunch," he said. "Here's a nickel. Go over to the store
and get yourself something to eat."
I was no longer hungry, but I used that nickel to
the best possible advantage. At the store I bought a
handful of the red-pepper drops once so popular with
practical jokers. The pepper effect does not begin
until the candy has been almost completely melted
away and it can only be ended through the merciful
A SMALL RED-HEADED BOY 5
processes 'of time. I stood at the gate as the girls re-
turned from their homes at the end of the lunch
hour, and gave each a mouthful of these demoniac
confections. They were all crying bitterly when the
bell sounded and I went into school.
"Lake, stand up/* said Rogers.
"Yes, Mr. Puttyhead."
We called Rogers "Puttyhead'* in our innocent
childish way, but no one had ever addressed him in
that fashion to his face. To this day I do not know
whether it was a deliberate or an intentional offense.
At any rate he carried on as best he could for the
remainder of the day. Then he took me by the tip of
my left ear and led me to my step-grandmother's
home, a mile and a half away. He was a tall man, and
he lifted me until I scuttled along on tiptoe for the
entire distance. My ear still shows the result of that
frog's march, for the cartilage was partially dislocated.
Rogers did not say anything to me about the dinner
I had stolen from him. Nor, looking backward again,
have I any hard feelings. Times and methods were
ruder than they are to-day. From the point of view
of Pleasantville in 1874 or thereabouts I deserved all
The battle-ground was changed when my father re-
turned from his stay in the West, but the tactics re-
mained the same. I was in continual hot water. We
moved from Pleasantville to Camden, near Philadel-
phia, and in punishment for some deviltry the teacher
gave me a little touch of Chinese torture. He forced
me to sit under the spout of the water-tank, and fixed
the spigot so that the water dripped on my head,
slowly, drop by drop. It was nothing at all at first;
I grinned confidently at the other pupils, and when
the teacher's eye was not on them they grinned back.
But presently I discovered that the Chinese knew
what they were about when they invented the water
cure. I never returned to that school.
For the next three months I played hookey every
day, and reported at home cheerfully each night with
my books and my story of the day's happenings. That
might have gone on indefinitely except for a bit of
bad luck. The ice was going out of the river with the
spring freshet, and another boy and I had fun rafting
down the river on the floating cakes. One cake
grounded on the wrong side of the river and we had
to swim ashore. As wet clothes would have been a
give-away for us, and as we were hardy young ruffians
anyway, we stripped them off and dried them in the
sun, while we sat on the float of one of the boat-
houses. A man who knew me recognized us my red
hair was a beacon which could be seen from a dis-
tanceand told my father.
"Tell me about this, son," said he.
He was a stern man but an understanding one.
Perhaps the water cure from which I had suffered
turned him to my defense. At any rate he did not
punish me, and we moved to Philadelphia. There I
had the first bit of happiness I can associate with my
school years. My new teacher was a very pretty and
charming girl and, school-boy fashion, I fell head
over heels in love with her. Perhaps the obvious de-
A SMALL RED-HEADED BOY 7
votion of the red-headed, freckle-faced kid who had
come to her with a bad reputation attracted her. Per-
haps she liked me for some of the better qualities I
had been so studiously concealing. At all events I
became her prize pupil one of the teacher's pets on
whom I had been conducting merciless war all my
scholastic life and from that time on I stood at the
head of my classes. I had never bothered to study in
other schools and had affected a hardy disdain for the
details of clothing and toilet, but now I became posi-
My father sent me to a coeducational boarding-
school at Fort Plain, New York, to take a business
course. I had ceased to be a rebel, but I had no liking
for more learning. Already my tastes were being chan-
neled in the way I later followed. I liked to make
plans and play with tools, but as my father thought
I should know something of business methods, I sub-
mitted. The verb "submitted" is used because it ac-
curately states the case. My father was a disciplinarian,
but he did not attempt to force me against my will,
once I had established a position which I could de-
Armed warfare was supplanted by school-boy
pranks at the coed school. I got into a good deal of
minor trouble, but my recollection is that the head
of the school had a turn of humor and knew almost
as much about boy-nature as the boys themselves.
One night we raided the store-room, climbing down
a wall on rope ladders and opening the store-room
door with keys I had made from a wax impression.
Decidedly I could not have been at this time a joy to
any teacher's heart. We managed to get back to our
rooms in safety with our burdens of pies and cans of
preserves, and our pockets filled with apples. There
we found the head of the school lying in wait for us.
He punished us, but he also laughed a little.
It was while I attended this school that I had the
closest call of my life, in spite of the fact that most
of my years have been spent in working with sub-
marine boats and explosives and other devices usually
considered dangerous. The girls were to give a show
"for girls only" and laughed at us when we said we
would manage to see it by hook or crook. With an-
other boy I got into the locked attic which covered
the entire house, and from which we planned to get
on the roof through trap-doors and lower ourselves
down to the windows of the hall in which the girls
were giving their show.
We had no means o lighting our way. Half-way
across the floor, with one foot in air, I withdrew that
foot and put it back where it had been. Then I got
down on the bare floor and felt about with my hands.
I had actually been about to step into an open shaft
planned for an elevator which had never been built.
There were no openings on the floors below and no
one in the house knew of its existence. What made
me stop, foot in air, and feel about in the darkness
for an unknown danger I shall never know. Perhaps
the explanation is perfectly simple. I was moving for-
ward very slowly and carefully, in order that no un-
toward noise should signal our enterprise to those on
A SMALL RED-HEADED BOY 9
the floor below, and it is possible that I merely
lowered my foot past the accustomed level and auto-
matically took alarm when I found no support. The
shaft was sixty feet deep.
In 1884 I returned home and told my father that
I was through with school. I was then seventeen years
Invention Runs in the Lake Blood
JULES VERNE was in a sense the director-general
U of my life. When I was not more than ten or
eleven years old I read his Twenty Thousand Leagues
under the Sea and my young imagination was fired.
This generation may have forgotten that Verne was
a great scientist as well as the writer of the most ro-
mantic fiction of his day. I began to dream of making
voyages under the waters, and of the vast stores of
treasure and the superb adventures that awaited sub-
aqueous pioneers. But with the impudence which is
a part of the equipment of the totally inexperienced
I found fault with some features of Jules Verne's
Nautilus and set about improving on them.
This was not the complete absurdity in fact that
it may seem when set down in black and white.
There is a strong strain of inventiveness in the Lake
blood. Tools run in our blood stream and drawing-
boards and calipers are household necessities. Before
I was nine years old I had taken my stepmother's
sewing-machine completely apart and put it together
again, and it ran better than it ever did. My father
was a watch repairer in his off moments. For that
matter, he was anything which had to do with tools.
INVENTION IN THE BLOOD 11
In his little workroom he had a saucer filled with
spare parts for watches, new and old.
"May I work with them?" I asked one day.
"Don't lose any" was his permission.
I put a watch together which not only ran but
keeps time accurately to-day. Its only eccentricity is
that it will run only while lying on its back, due to
the fact that the one balance-wheel I could find had
been intended for a watch of an entirely different cal-
Possibly the fact that during my earlier school
years I was something of a belligerent pariah, and
was, therefore, cut off from the normal contacts with
my kind shaped my likings, but in any case I always
preferred messing around with tools to playing with
the youngsters of my age. Drawing plans to scale was
as much fun for me as solitary sailing in my boat.
In 1881 we moved to Toms River, New Jersey,
from Philadelphia, and for a time I lived a charmed
life. I sailed my boat, drew plans, worked with tools,
and, so far as I can recollect, was not interfered with
at all, so long as I obeyed the household rules about
meal hours and bedtimes. I had been so excited by
Jules Verne's Nautilus that I began to read every-
thing which might have a bearing on the problems
attending my proposed penetration of the depths of
the sea. It was at this time that I studied Steel's
Natural Philosophy, and learned of the diving-bell.
It was, perhaps, natural that the kind of a boy I was
should draw plans for a submarine which would have
a diving compartment.
That early submarine of mine was the predecessor
of all the submarines there are on the seas to-day.
Until the paper accouchement of my Argonaut no
one had invented a submarine which could submerge
with an even keel, instead of progressing in the dis-
tressing hops and bounds which had made the first
attempts at submarining impracticable. My Argonaut
could be driven under water for an indefinite period,
which is more than could be said of any other pro-
posed submarine of the day. It had wheels on which
it could run along the sea bottom as readily as an
automobile can traverse a paved highway; they dem-
onstrated their practicability later by obtaining for
me a rich contract with Russia.
My plans for the Argonaut included an air-lock,
which was the first practical application to my knowl-
edge of this principle in connection with a diving-
bell. Verne's Nautilus had been provided with a div-
ing compartment which could be opened to the sea,
but which was manifestly inconvenient and danger-
ous. I added an intermediate air-lock and devised an
air-pump, by which the air-pressure could be raised in
the diver's compartment until it equaled the hydro-
static pressure of the water outside. Then the diver's
door could be opened, and no water could enter the
compartment so long as the water- and air-pressure
equaled each other.
The intermediate air-lock permits the occupants
of the submarine to pass back and forth between the
living quarters of the submarine (in which the air-
pressure is always maintained at the substantially
INVENTION IN THE BLOOD lg
normal atmospheric pressure of about fifteen pounds
per square inch) and the diving compartment, in
which the air-pressure must be increased 0.433 pounds
per square inch for every additional foot the sub-
marine submerges when the bottom exit door is open.
One can spear fish or scoop up crabs or walk on
the bottom of the sea with ease as long as one keeps
one's head in the air-filled compartment.
I knew nothing of the "bends" in those days. I
doubt if any one else did. They were the deviltries
of later days, when high air-pressure became the rule
in working in caissons and in New York's under-
river tunnels. My little Argonaut had been planned
only for submersions to a shallow depth in the waters
around Toms River. The original designs called for
"wooden construction throughout, and man-power on
the gears that drove the propeller, but it carried in
it every important development in submarining
which the past half-century has seen.
I do not suggest that some one else might not have
seen the possibilities later, but only that I saw them
first. Years later Charles Sooysmith, head of the Foun-
dation Company of New York, said to me:
"I got my idea for using the air-lock in driving
caissons for foundations and in building tunnels
under the river from your early work. Much obliged,
In turn I had had my idea from some forgotten
Lake who had hunted deer, and perhaps Indians, in
this same country around Toms River. Among the
innumerable things of doubtful utility which had
little by little accumulated in the household was an
old powder-horn. The man who had first boiled and
scraped that horn had had a turn toward artistry, for
I recall that it was covered with ornamentation,
scratched in with the point of a hunting knife. One
day when I was completely stuck with my air-lock
plan I knew what I wanted but I did not know how
to get it I picked up this old horn and began to fid-
dle with it. The small end carried a curious double
charger, the like of which I have never seen since.
When it was pressed down, a charge of powder ran
into it from the horn, and when it was full the flow
was automatically cut off. That gave me the idea for
the air-lock. If it had been adopted by modern sub-
marine constructors there would have been fewer
losses of life in submarine disasters. It is quite feasible
for the crew of a helpless and sunken submarine to
reach the surface through the air-lock if proper escape
devices have been provided.
That old powder-horn recalls an incident that is
perfectly incredible. No one can believe it, yet I am
sure it is true. While my father was in the West, fol-
lowing the death of my mother, he had picked up an
old cap-and-ball revolver. It was a sort of a blunder-
buss affair, carrying an enormous round bullet, and
with a hinged ramming mechanism attached to the
side. I had found it during my rummaging among
the plunder in the attic and promptly commandeered
it. It had its part in the games I played with myself,
and when I could get money enough to buy powder
and shot and taps I would go hunting with it. In
INVENTION IN THE BLOOD 15
order to forestall any 'possible objections I hid the
old revolver under the front porch. Then I forgot
about it, and when the hired man quite accidentally
found it on one of his clean-up expeditions a house-
hold panic followed:
"Burglars hid it there/' said our womenfolk. "We
will all be murdered in our beds."
That this did not make sense is perfectly evident,
but the to-do persisted until I came forward and
told my story. My interest in hunting was reawak-
ened by the return of the old gun; with some diffi-
culty I got hold of ammunition for it and went hunt-
ing. Exposure to the salt air of the Jersey coast had
ruined it, however. The barrel was almost plugged
with rust, and its other parts were in a decayed and
ruinous condition. That meant nothing to me, for
ballistics has never been one of my preoccupations.
I loaded it with a full charge of powder and shot,
aimed it at a bird, and fired. The old pistol blew up
in a shower. Bits of it rained down all around me.
The bird witness of the explosion fell dead.
No one will believe me, but it is a fact that there
was not the tiniest mark of any sort on that bird's
body. It must have been literally scared to death.
It could not have been very much more surprised
than I was a little later, however. My Uncle Jesse
had taken a fancy to me, and I spent a good deal of
time in his workshop. One day I was hard at work
with a foot-punch. You placed whatever it might be
that you wished to punch in the jaws, and then
stamped on the foot-treadle. Just as I was about to
stamp Uncle Jesse called to me:
"What are you making, son?" he asked.
"A thing for my boat/' I replied, punching hard.
His question had taken my mind off my business.
The punch went through the gadget and my fore-
finger, too, and held fast. I called over to Uncle Jesse:
"I can't get my finger out/'
"Why don't you take your foot off the treadle?"
The doctors said that my finger would have to
come off, but my father would not listen to them.
It was saved after months of bandaging, although
even yet it is nothing to boast of. My natural resent-
ment at this accident was tempered, however, by the
fact that it relieved me of the daily half-hour of piano
practice on which my stepmother had insisted. I had
precisely the same amount of liking for the piano
that any growing boy has who prefers to spend his
time in the open air when he is not fooling around
with tools. I figured I was well ahead of the game.
My Uncle Jesse Lake was a remarkable man. He
was a seafarer by preference and kept two schooners
constantly in commission. Between times he ran his
foundry and a farm and did inventing as a side line.
He had an old treadmill on the farm, which was oper-
ated by horses and furnished the power for various
farm operations. One year he got a contract to build
a road across a patch of swamp, but ran into difficulty
when the ground was so soft that he could not haul
his wagons over it. So he sat down to think.
INVENTION IN THE BLOOD 17
"I'll just turn that old treadmill upside down,"
He did and it worked. The horses worked the
treadmill, and the cleats on which they climbed
marched over the soft mire and hauled the wagons
behind them. It would be difficult to overemphasize
the importance of this almost accidental discovery.
It was the precursor of the caterpillar tractors that
are in use everywhere in farm and road-making oper-
ations and a theory without which the tanks used
in modern warfare would be impossible. Later he
built a steam-driven tractor locomotive which pulled
a whole train of gravel cars. This was used to build
the first highway from Pleasantville, New Jersey, to-
Atlantic City, a distance of about five miles across,
a soft swamp that had hitherto been impassable.
He sold to Cyrus McCormick for fifteen hundred
dollars the device for lifting the cutter bar of mowing-
machines over stumps and stones, which made the
mower a really practical article. One day he found
he needed a more powerful winch with which to pull
his schooners up on the waysso he made one which
has never been excelled. He was as sure of his winch
as Archimedes was of his levers. "Give me a place
to tie to and I could pull the earth and moon to-
Uncle Jesse invented the whistling buoy and
anchored the device on Sandy Hook for a trial. It
was so successful that some one took the idea and got
a patent on it.
His inventions were not always so practical. One
year he invented shoes with which to walk on water.
"We'll try 'em out on Fish Creek," he said. My
father and Wesley Lake went with him to a place on
Fish Creek, between Pleasantville and what is now
Atlantic City, where he tied on his shoes and started
for his stroll. They worked all right, too. He was
getting along fine until he turned his head to look
at something and capsized. Uncle Jesse was held head
down in the water with the shoes on top until Father
and Wesley rescued him. He threw the shoes away.
Uncle Jesse and Uncle Ezra invented a flying-
machine which had at least a hint of practicality in
it, for Ezra flew in it. But he picked the wrong place
for his flight. He set it up in one gallery of the
Pleasantville church and undertook to fly across the
church and land in the opposite gallery. He flew, but
he did not fly far enough and landed with a crash
in the pews. The story is still a joke in the Lake
Other Lakes went in for invention. My Grand-
father Lake made what was perhaps the first practical
seed-planting machine; his cousin Vincent designed
an excellent typewriting machine and was one of the
inventors of the old Calligraph typewriter. His first
machine was shown at an exhibition in Brooklyn not
many years ago. Risley Lake, another cousin, with
his brother Vincent, invented what is now known as
the offset device for color printing, and David Lake
we spoke of him always as "D" invented the shoe-
lasting machine, made money out of it, and retired
from business as a young man. Ira Lake had made a
INVENTION IN THE BLOOD 19
workable telephone when Alexander Graham Bell
announced his initial success, and Ira dropped out.
My father invented the shade-roller for windows,
and put it on the market about the time that the
Hartshorn shade-roller was also patented. The Lake
and Hartshorn rollers were sufficiently unlike to in-
vite competition, and both men did very nicely for
years. Then the patents expired and Hartshorn out-
smarted father. Every other man who knew how to
add ratchets to round sticks went into the shade-
roller business and the market was flooded. After a
time my father gave it up. Hartshorn had plenty of
money and kept on. "Buy a Hartshorn roller if you
want a good roller," he advertised. Perhaps that was
not the phrase he used, but that was the meaning.
The men who were new at the business had been
using green wood and cheap springs, and their cus-
tomers were glad to throw away their contraptions
and buy the Hartshorn roller. Father had not known
how to advertise his business and was ruined.
I am afraid that the Lakes are not interested in
keeping money after they get it. Most of them have
made comfortable livings and had good homes, but
I know of none who became a multimillionaire,
although many have been pioneers in various activi-
ties. John Lake was one of the founders of Gravesend,
now South Brooklyn, in 1645; his son William Lake
took up land in what is now Atlantic County, in
South Jersey, and his descendants were active in the
development of that section.
My 'great-grandfather surveyed the Shore Road
which for years was the only roadway along the coast
from Cape May to South Amboy. I remember that
as a boy my grandfather showed me the remains of
the wooden floors of the evaporating ponds his father
had built, where a rough salt was extracted from sea
water. This is now Atlantic City, but at that time
there was not a house on the island and the only use
made of it was as a pasture for cattle. When summer
campers discovered it grandfather and his brothers
built the first roadway over the meadows and bridge
over the Thoroughfare. This was the only means of
communication until the railways came, followed
by the superb system of boulevards over which the
cars stream unendingly to-day.
The Lakes have been active in the temperance
movement, too, ever since my great-grandfather and
Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration
of Independence, traveled together through the
country preaching against strong drink. Sometimes
the drinkers disagreed with them so violently that
they were compelled to .call for the protection of the
county sheriffs. Pleasantville did not have a licensed
saloon for more than one hundred and fifty years.
In 1881 my grandfather owned the island called
Peck's Beach on which Ocean City was built. As a
member of the New Jersey Legislature he succeeded
in having a law enacted forbidding the sale of liquor
or the operation of bawdy houses in Ocean City,
under penalty of the forfeiture of the land on which
an offending establishment stood.
His death was caused by his activity in protecting
INVENTION IN THE BLOOD 21
the coast-line of the island against the storms which
have eroded so many miles of the New Jersey shore-
line. He employed many men to cut down brush
and riprap the waterfront, so that instead of the sand
being torn away by the undertow it was washed up,
becoming a part of the solid ground. Many handsome
homes now stand on the northern pan of the island
which was saved by his forethought. In showing an
Italian workman how to handle an ax he cut his
foot one day; blood poisoning set in and he died.
The temperate and active lives led by most of the
Lakes have conferred the blessings of great physical
strength and ripe age upon them. My father is ninety
years old and still quite vigorous, so I look forward
to at least ten years more of activity.
I am also a descendant of Jeremy Adams, one of the
founders of Hartford, Connecticut, in 1636. His name
appears on the Founders' Monument in Hartford.
Jeremy was Indian Agent and, by appointment of the
King, the Keeper of the Public Inn. His home was
torn down a comparatively few years ago to make
room for the buildings of the Travelers Insurance
Old Jeremy seems to have been a fast thinker. The
Colony got into difficulties with the Crown and it was
essential that the original copy of the charter under
which the Colony was operating be preserved. A
meeting of the General Court was being held in
Jeremy's Inn and the charter was laid on the table
while the dispute raged.
"This room is too hot," said Jeremy, "One of you
serving men open the windows."
The windows were opened, a brisk Connecticut
wind blew in, extinguishing the candles, and Jeremy
tucked the charter under his coat. Perhaps he was
suspected, but at all events he was not searched, and
later he hid the charter in the Charter Oak, where it
remained in safety. One of the later Adams moved
to New Jersey and married into the Lake family.
With this background of pioneering it is perhaps
natural that my interests have been more in doing
things than in making money. I remember that Frank
Miller, then president of the City National Bank of
Bridgeport, said at a public dinner:
"I have known Simon for years and I am fond of
him, but he doesn't know the value of a dollar or
how to keep it after he gets it."
"That's probably true," was my reply. "But I had
rather die broke because I had been spending my
money in doing worth-while things than sit around
Befriending the Oyster Pirates
WHEN I first conceived the idea of the sub-
marine, as a school-boy at Toms River, New
Jersey, I was fascinated by my idea of the diving com-
partment. I felt that if I could step out of my sub-
marine-which-was-to-be right onto the ocean floor
I would soon be able to outmarvel Verne himself.
But I only had the idea. I knew nothing of air-
pressures, nor how long it is possible to live and
breathe stale air over and over again, nor what takes
place in air that has been exhausted by overuse.
None of the books at my disposition contained any
information. No one I knew could tell me anything.
It was evident that I must work out my problem for
Fortunately for me the means for this was at hand.
In those days the magazine Golden Days was the
friend, guide, and instructor of every boy who could
scrape together the dollars for a year's subscription
or wheedle his folks into subscribing for him. In each
number were suggestions of devices which could be
put together by boys, and which so far as my recollec-
tion goes were always enticing but often dangerous
to life and limb. During my residence at Toms River
in 1882 the magazine carried elaborate directions for
the making of a canvas canoe. I made one and found
it the crankiest craft ever put together. If you winked
an eye she either spurted out from under you or
tipped over, or did some other silly thing. But I ex-
perimented with her patiently, and finally located her
center of gravity; after insuring her static stability by
careful ballasting, I managed to have a good deal of
It was evident to me that if I tipped that canoe over
and held her bottom side up in the water the cavity
of her hull would contain a certain quantity of air.
My problem was to overturn and then come up under
her and see how long I could go on breathing. It
appears now that I at that time lacked that passion
for exactitude which marks the true scientist, for I do
not remember that I had any way of measuring the
air-content, and I certainly could not expect my
home-made watch to time me accurately after a dive
through the water of Toms River. However, I upset
the canoe, put my head up inside her, and waited
patiently to see how long I could stand it. My first
research into the problems which air presents to the
submarine engineer was abruptly ended. My canvas
canoe was righted by a strong hand.
"What's the matter with ye, Simon?" asked an anx-
ious voice. "Be ye hurt?*' My explanation of my pur-
pose in overturning the canoe was only a confirma-
tion of what Toms River had long suspected about
my intellectual furnishings, but that was of no con-
sequence to me. I had been able to live without fresh
BEFRIENDING OYSTER PIRATES 25
air for approximately half an hour, and that gave me
a point of departure for my calculations.
Before I was fourteen years of age I had completed
the plans for the first Argonaut. I left them in my
father's desk when I went away to school. When I
came home again, completely distasteful of schools
and teachers and hungry to get my hands again on
tools, I showed them to him.
"They look all right to me, Simon," he said, after
he had studied them for a time. "But what's the
meaning of this? And this?"
I explained the things that had puzzled him.
"Let these plans alone for a time, son," he advised.
"The best engineers in the world have tried to solve
these problems and have failed. Give yourself a little
This was not welcome advice, of course. I had no
money, for a school-boy rarely is able to accumulate
capital, and no one would back me, and I was wholly
possessed with my submarine demon. But there was
nothing I could do about it except to go to work and
make money, and ultimately carry out my plans. I
bluntly refused to go back to school.
"You should have some technical training," father
said. "I would like you to go to a good technical
"I want to go into the shop," I said stubbornly.
Father had moved his little joundry from Toms
River to Ocean City. TheLake family had founded
both Ocean City and Atlantic Highlands as shore re-
sorts with strong religious influences and control, and
were not only interested in their temporal success
but in the quality of their morals. Father thought his
little foundry would make money if it did not its
door would quickly be closed and that it would
afford employment to about thirty men, thus bene-
fiting the town. Tom Cooney was the boss molder.
"I can make a molder of the lad," he said, after he
had watched me work in the foundry for a few days.
He was a good man and he made a first-rate molder
of me. I was then fourteen years old, and I weighed
145 pounds. I was fast and tireless and filled with
young ambition to be the best man in the shop.
Pretty soon I had a bench of my own. Then I teamed
with another man who was the fastest man in the
shop in some operations, just as I was the fastest in
others. When we worked together we could best any
team in the foundry. Then I began to look into the
higher branches of the art. We had a man named
Forrester who was a very good pattern-maker, and
he taught me how to make a gear-wheel, which was a
test of proficiency. I began to go to Franklin Institute
in Philadelphia three days a week to study mechani-
cal drawing. I could see that if I were to make a
really first-rate submarine I must know something of
When I was eighteen my father had to go west on
business, and he left me in charge of the foundry.
The thirty men had been working for us for a long
time. They had their homes in Ocean City, other
employment was almost non-existent, and their rela-
tions with the Lakes had been admirably friendly.
BEFRIENDING OYSTER PIRATES 27
Neither my father nor I suspected that any trouble
could possibly come up. But he was hardly out of
town when the men staged what we would call nowa-
days a sit-down strike. One of the men came to me.
"We've got to get more money, Simon," he said,
"or we quit."
The word "Mister" had, I suppose, never been
heard inside the foundry walls. Managers and men
knew each other by their first names. The other men
sat down by their benches and grinned at me. They
evidently thought that they had the boy by the short
hair. If I did not give them the increases they asked
I would be shown up as an incompetent manager
who had had his factory shot from under him on his
first day in charge.
"That's good," I said heartily. "You know about as
much about the factory as I do, John. You know we
are not making much money just managing to keep
open so the men can have some work and draw some
pay. But this gives me a chance to shorten the pay-
roll. I'll discharge a few of the men right now and
you're the first to go, John."
"Wait a minute," said John hurriedly. "Let me
talk to the boys."
In no time at all they were hard at work. Perhaps
we lost ten minutes in the sit-down strike no more.
The men grinned at me now and then during the day
and then forgot it. As they might say nowadays: "Any-
how, we tried. You can't blame a fellow for trying."
On one occasion my father called me into his little
"Simon," he said critically, your 'clothes are not
They were not, of course. Every waking minute,
almost, was being spent in the foundry. I did not
need good clothes. But father seemed to think that
the not-exacting standards of the family were being
lowered by my dress.
"Here is some money," he said. "Go into Phila-
delphia to-morrow and buy some clothes."
I meant well, but my flesh is weak when exposed to
the printed word. Before I got around to buying
clothes I stepped into a book-store to browse around,
as the clerks say, and came home with plenty of new
books but no new clothes. This was one of the really
important days of my life. One of the books I bought
was Haswell's Mechanic's and Engineer's Pocket
Book, which was to be my Bible for years to come.
Charles Haswell was the first chief engineer of the
United States Navy, and for more than forty years
the official measurer of the New York Yacht Club.
No other marine engineer of his time could be com-
pared to him, in the opinion of the old salts who de-
manded facts in their operations and were only mildly
concerned with theory. Old-timers will agree that
"Uncle Charley" was one of the notable men of his
Haswell's mind operated entirely in mathematical
terms. Later he became my first stockholder.
"How old are you, Uncle Charley?" some one
asked one day.
BEFRIENDING OYSTER PIRATES 2Q
"If I live until Thursday/' he replied, "I'll be
ninety-eight point seven.'*
When I got home with my load of books my father
frowned mildly at me.
"I'm sorry about the clothes," I explained. "But
after I got the books I had to have there was no
I studied Haswell's Pocket Book until it was dog's-
eared. The old book is still on my desk and even
now I sometimes refer to it.
It was about this time that I first came in contact
with the old high-wheel bicycle. The extremely lucky
present generation has never used this mechanical
beast, and for its information it may be stated that
the first practical form the bicycle assumed was that
of a very high wheel tailed by a very small wheel.
Mounted on top of the high wheel the venturesome
rider kicked vigorously at the pedals. If the high
wheel encountered an obstacle suddenly, he fell on
his nose and the two wheels fell on him. If at speed
the high wheel hit a rock or corn-cob or anything
else at an angle, the handle-bars twisted out of his
hands and he dived sidewise into the ditch while
the wheel executed an intricate wriggle and with un-
failing accuracy fell over him again.
It seemed to me that something could be done
about this, and in 1887 I patented a steering device
which enabled the rider of a high wheel to retain
possession of the handle-bars even under a consider-
able twist. An adaptation of the same scheme is used
on the steering-gear of all automobiles nowadays. If
the gear were held without any chance for play when
the wheels strike an obstacle every automobile in the
world would be in the ditch. This patent was granted
on May 24, 1887, and I had fairly started on my
career as an inventor. Since then I have had over
two hundred patents granted me in the United States
and foreign countries. One hundred and eleven have
to do with submarines or their mechanisms. Twenty-
five of my patents are now in use on submarines
everywhere. Without them there could be no practi-
My improved steering-gear for high-wheel bicycles
proved to be practicable. I had sailed a boat from the
time I was big enough to haul on a rope, and I was
familiar with the manner in which a steering-wheel
fought the helmsman in a heavy sea. I therefore
planned an extension of my improved steering-gear
for small-boat use. There was a market anywhere
along the Atlantic seaboard, but it seemed to me that
a better one might be found in Chesapeake Bay. The
bay was at that time producing more and perhaps
better oysters than any other body of water in the
world. They were dredged for from the decks of small
sailing-vessels, and to haul the heavy dredges aboard
a device known as a "winder" was used. The "i" is
pronounced as in wine. It consisted of a winch and a
winding handle. Not infrequently the dredge would
catch on an underwater obstruction, as the vessel
sailed along, and snatch the handle out of the hands
of the men at work "winding." Many a good man has
BEFRIENDING OYSTER PIRATES gl
been killed by a blow on head or chest from the heavy
I had a simple little scheme for stopping that back-
firing of the winding handle, and I took it and my im-
proved steering-gear to Baltimore for sale to the oys-
termen. This was in 1888. Not long ago I saw two
steering-gears that I had put on in 1891 in use on
oyster sloops in Baltimore. The operation of putting
the safety gear on a steering-wheel was not a com-
plicated one, and I used to row out in the bay at
night and attach them while the fleet was at anchor.
At thirty-five dollars each I made a very decent living.
I did not realize it then or if I did it was just an
occasion for laughter but I was probably the best
friend the oyster pirates of Chesapeake Bay ever had.
Those were hard days. Morals and ideals had not
been burnished to perfection. The oystering business
was about as tough as any business you can think of,
and the oystering captains were as rough as any of
the bully mates on American deep-sea clippers. Men
employed on the sloops were paid off at the end of
the season. If there was a shortage of dredgers no cap-
tain had any hesitancy in shanghaiing as many men
as he needed, with the help of the saloon keepers on
Boston Street. Some of the worst of the captains were
reputed to pay off at the end of the season by "jibing
the main boom" a humorous way of saying the men
My winding-gear was noiseless, whereas the clank
of the pawls on the old-fashioned winders could be
heard for miles on a calm night. The best of the
oyster-beds were privately owned and were protected
by guards, and many of the state-owned beds were
forbidden to dredgers. As long as oyster-dredging was
a noisy and unconcealable business these laws were
obeyed except by the more desperate of the oyster
pirates, but my noiseless gear enabled even the rea-
sonably law-abiding men to drift over a guarded bed
and scoop up a sloop-load without arousing the law.
Many a life has been saved on the Chesapeake Bay
by my improved steering-gear and my safety-assured
winders. But how many million bushels of oysters
have been stolen by their aid is any one's guess.
First Contact with Big Business
HAD been living a sheltered life. The Lake
family is God-fearing and temperate. The men
in my father's family were sound, self-respecting
Americans. Toms River was a village with a dash of
sea air, and Ocean City was professedly religious in
tone. Profanity and drunkenness were as rare as arson
or wife-beating. In Baltimore I was to have my first
contact with the person known as the up-and-coming
business man. I did not like him.
I had been making a very satisfactory living with
my steering-gear and my winders, for the Baltimore
oystermen bought about as many as I could supply.
As the oyster-boats could often be worked on only
at night, I spent my daytime working at new ideas
and made sales and delivered my goods at night
Baltimore was then a canning center, and the
A. Booth Company was the largest canner. Booth's
canning was done by machine, but it was not satis-
factory. Two machines and a dozen men were needed
to cap 15,000 cans a day. I went in to see Booth
with plans for a new machine.
"Show me/' said the head of the company.
Before I could show, it was necessary to build a
machine. As usual, I had not enough money. But I
went to New York, enlisted three moneyed men, and
formed the Lake Capping Machine Company. I
thought they were very nice men indeed, for they
were kind and hearty to me. As soon as I had shown
them my plans and told my prospects they agreed to
put in $10,000. In return they were to have control
of the company. They told me that this was cus-
tomary and, indeed, necessary. An inventor, they ex-
plained, could not be expected to be a good business
man. They would relieve me of the harassing details
of bookkeeping and I could devote myself to the
making of the machines. This seemed a very sound
idea to me. All inventors who enlist the aid of busi-
ness men hear the same story. In most cases it seems
sound to them.
My friends actually put in $600 in cash. I was to
draw a salary of $75 a month as soon as I was able to
get into production. During the preliminary period
of getting ready to get into production I drew no
salary. I do not know how my friendly partners
thought I would live during this time, but that is of
no consequence. I made my machine and set it up
for operation. In the Baltimore canning factories the
men were classed as skilled workers. My machine
could cap 50,000 cans a day and only two green boys
were needed to supervise it.
I was on the highway to fortune, as I thought, but
it turned into a detour. The Cappers' Union of Bal-
timore promised to close any canning factory that
adopted my machine. The Union would have been
helpless, as a matter of fact, for my machine could
FIRST BIG-BUSINESS CONTACT 35
do the work of forty men, and no Union could stand
up against that. But the Union bluffed and the can-
ners capitulated. I was in no position to take an active
part, for I had completed but one machine, and it
capped one- and two-pound cans only. The canners
wanted machines that would cap three-pound cans
as well. The A. Booth Company was willing to fight
the Union and contract with me for the machines,
but quite properly wanted to be certain that I
would be in a position to supply the spare parts and
make repairs as needed. The company was fair with
"We will buy the machine you have on hand if you
can assure us of protection," said the Booth Company.
"Then you can go ahead and manufacture others."
I called on my three backers for more money.
Everything seemed rosy to me, for sales were certain
and, what was more important to an inventor, my
machine would be put in operation. I was so anx-
ious to get ahead and so desirous of lightening the
load on my three backers that I offered to forget all
about my salary until we were able to get into pro-
duction. Three days' pay was coming to me at this
time, or approximately four dollars. As a business
man I expected payment of this sum. My backers
gave me the first of many shocks I have received in
dealing with business men.
"We think it best for you to sell the one machine
you have built to the A. Booth Company," they wrote
me. "This will make the company a very considerable
profit, and with this money in the treasury you Can
then go ahead and build other machines."
I replied that the A. Booth Company would not
only not buy a single machine, but that I would not
sell it if they were foolish enough to buy, for a break-
down would put the company at the mercy of the
Cappers' Union. Before any sale could be made the
Lake Capping Machine Company must show good
faith by producing other capping machines. But my
three backers refused to go on with their agreement
and put up the remainder of the ten thousand dollars
they had promised. They were so bemused by the
opportunity to make a large profit on the single sale,
which would furnish the backlog for the enterprise
at no cost to them whatever, that they were simply
unable to see the other factors. So the Lake Capping
Machine Company blew up. I never saw them again.
They had control of the company, and I was helpless,
but they could not make the machines and they were
helpless. The company just died.
I was not as much disappointed as one might think.
My interest in submarines had never flagged, and it
had risen higher than ever because of my association
with the Chesapeake Bay oystermen. I had married
Miss Margaret Vogel of Baltimore in 1890, and she
had encouraged me in my almost nightly work on
plans for submarines. All my life it has been my
habit to work until midnight, or thereabouts, and
rise not long after dawn. This is not so much a habit
of industry as of self-indulgence. I have always been
so enormously interested in whatever it is I am doing
FIRST BIG-BUSINESS CONTACT 7
that the days are too short for me. I had worked
out the scheme for the Lake submarine and had de-
cided to name it the Argonaut, if and when I was
able to build one. At this time I had no thought of
building a submarine for naval use. I was possessed
of my original conviction that a submarine built
for purely commercial use would be profitable.
After forty years of practical experience I still think
One day in 1892 I came home to find my wife
"Look," she said, pointing to an advertisement in
one of the Baltimore papers. "The Navy authorities
are advertising for bids on a submarine."
"If I win the competition," I said to her, "I'll buy
you. a lot of pearls."
The Navy Department had listed certain require-
ments as essential. In the order of importance they
were: safety; ease and certainty of operation when
submerged; speed; endurance; offensive power; sta-
bility; ability to perceive the object to be attacked.
For more than a century the Navy Departments of
several countries had been examining the possibilities
of submarine navigation. In 1863 the French Navy
brought out the largest and most efficient submarine
boat to be launched during the nineteenth century.
In 1866 Mr. O. S. Halstead of Newark, New Jersey,
completed a submarine on which the United States
Government made a partial payment. The Intelligent
Whale is still to be seen on the Green at the Brook-
lyn Navy Yard. Some years later Mr. J. P. Holland
had launched the Fenian Ram, which was designed
for use against the British Navy during Ireland's war
for independence. But no satisfactory submarine had
been produced, although a number of inventors were
at work on plans.
"Good luck, Simon/' said my wife when she kissed
me good-by the morning I started for Washington to
submit my plans.
'Til need it."
But I found that I really needed a good many
things and luck was only one of them. When I was
finally ushered into the office of the Secretary of the
Navy my heart sank low. Here I was, a green young-
ster of twenty-seven I felt about fourteen years old
that morningin the presence of more important
men than I had ever seen in my life. No one sat at
the Secretary's desk, although from time to time or-
derlies placed papers on it or took others away. But
the great room was filled with men who might have
been anything, only provided it was big enough.
Those were the days of frock-coats in official life, and
whiskers, and cable-chains stretching across low-cut
vests, and large and impressive hats. I sat on a divan,
my rolled-up plans in my hand, and felt my insignifi-
cance grow on me. A young man sitting beside me
spoke in a friendly way.
"I suppose you're a submarine inventor, too/' he
said, nodding toward my roll of plans.
"Are all these men inventors of submarines?" I
"Oh, no. So far as I know only three are here
FIRST BIG-BUSINESS CONTACT 39
you, and my father, Mr. George A. Baker of Chicago,
and Mr. John P. Holland of New York/'
"But who are all these other men?"
The young man knew his way around. He named
Senators and Congressmen and lawyers and politicians
whose names were familiar to me, although I had
been taking not the slightest interest in politics.
"There is one of the great New York bankers/'
said my acquaintance, pointing out a man who was
buttonholing a Senator. They seemed to be on the
most intimate terms. There were promoters and
brokers moving through the crowd. The air was filled
with tobacco smoke and noise and every one there
seemed to wear an air of dominance and authority.
Those who glanced at me seemed not even to see me.
I felt of less consequence than a page boy.
"Lakey," I said to myself, "the church may be right,
but you're in the wrong pew"
After a time I was permitted to submit my plans.
No one seemed to be at all interested in them or me.
No one wanted to talk to me or ask questions. Later
I was to learn that inventors are not highly regarded
in government offices. This is said in no spirit of criti-
cism, for it is a fact that many crack-brains develop
what their owners think are inventions, and talk a
witless jargon that is incomprehensible to the trained
intellect and a violent annoyance to the unfortunate
clerk who is compelled to listen. Inasmuch as inven-
tors do invent things and as all progress may be
traced to inventions, however, it has always seemed
to me that die Government should make an intelli-
gent effort to sift out those who have something
from the many who have nothing. I will have more
to say of this after a while.
"That is all for to-day," said the naval officer who
had receipted for my plans. "The Department will
communicate with you later."
I was confident that my plans were superior to
those of the Holland and Baker submarine. Every
inventor presumably feels that way. I could name sev-
eral points of superiority. It seemed to me, too, in
my almost infantile ignorance of how things are
done in politics, that my proposition would appeal to
the chiefs in the Navy Department. I had not sub-
mitted a bid for the construction of a boat, for the
very good reason that I had neither money nor
backers, but I had asked that, if my plans were ac-
cepted, I be given a position in the capacity of con-
structor and my boat be built in one of the Navy's
yards. It seemed to me that this suggestion was both
practical and a promise of economy.
What I did not know was that there was the smell
of business in the building of submarines. Let me
emphasize that this statement is not necessarily criti-
cal. The Mends of Mr. Baker and Mr. Holland, one
or both, had aroused interest in submarines among
members of Congress. An appropriation of $200,000
was made, and it was the very natural feeling of those
who had put this appropriation through that Baker
and Holland were entitled to the first chance at it. I
went back to Baltimore hoping to hear from Wash-
ington on almost every mail. Nothing came from
FIRST BIG-BUSINESS CONTACT 41
Washington, but one day I got a telegram from the
editor of the New York Tribune.
"Understand Navy Board has approved your plans"
something like that "and Lake submarine will be
built. Will you see reporter for the Tribune in Bal-
I gave the Tribune that interview, but Mr. Hol-
land got the contract. Years later I met Admiral
Baird, who had been a member of the Navy Board.
This was after I had built successful submarines for
Russia and Austria and had been engaged in an ad-
visory capacity by other governments. Krupps of
Germany had contracted with me also, but the com-
pany took advantage of a technical opportunity to
slip out of the agreement, and while it built sub-
marines of the Lake type it built them on its own.
Baird said, "Lake, I'm glad to meet you. We should
have been building your boats all the time. Four of
the five members of the Board voted for your plans
in 1893, you know.*'
"Then why didn't you build my boats?"
"Because the Navy's advertisement had required
that a bid be submitted for the construction of a
submarine. You made no such bid.
"Four of us," he continued, "wanted to call you
over to the Navy Yard and have you make up work-
ing drawings. Then we could build in one of the
Navy's yards under your supervision. But they beat
My plans had called for a boat which has since be-
come known as the level-keel or submersible type, the
only type of submarine now being built. The Hol-
land boats were submerged by the operation of a
horizontal rudder, placed at the stern of the boat,
and the Baker boats by the use of side propellers which
could be inclined up or down. The Holland boat was
at that time called a "diving boat/* and was similar
to boats which had been built by the Confederates
during our Civil War, and by French, Spanish, and
English inventors. They all dived like a fish, and
sometimes quite as unexpectedly. Many such boats
have in this way taken the lives of their crews.
In fact, this type of vessel could not be controlled
except by the constant juggling of the diving rudders,
and frequently the most expert helmsman would fail
to catch her in time to keep her from "broaching," or
perhaps running her nose into the bottom. One of the
German diving type drove herself forty-five feet into
the mud on the bottom of Kiel Harbor, and it took a
battle-ship to pull her out. A French naval observer,
after watching a trial of one of the early French sub-
marines, Le Plongeur, described her progress as "like
a rubber ball bounding along, alternately striking the
bottom and then rebounding into the air." The ad-
vocates of this diving type termed this alternate div-
ing and broaching "porpoising," and tried to claim
a credit for such performance, but the fact is that
their boats could not be controlled. Men had to take
fixed positions when the boats ran submerged and
hold on like barnacles to a pier to keep from being
thrown down and possibly injured. With my level-
keel boat I was able to maintain sufficient static sta-
FIRST BIG-BUSINESS CONTACT 43
bility to permit the men of the crew to move about
at will, and to fire torpedoes without the nose of the
submarine being jumped out of the water.
The Holland Company had guaranteed a per-
formance for the Plunger which was not only not
met at the time, but which no boat ever built has
been able to meet. But the art of building submarines
was then in its puling infancy. A few skeptics like
myself might be found who could place their criticism
of the Holland boat on scientific ground but there
were only a few. The extent of ignorance even in pro-
fessional circles can hardly be understood, now that
submarines have become a naval commonplace. Along
with this ignorance was a quality of stupid arrogance,
which made the life of an unfortunate inventor an
unhappy one. The feeling of too many officers was
that a mere civilian should not presume to challenge
any position they might take. On one occasion I at-
tempted to discuss my Argonaut with a graduate of
the Naval Academy at Annapolis, who was in charge
of certain phases of naval construction.
"My Argonaut can do thus-and-so," I said.
"That's impossible," he said brusquely. "Why do
you try to make me believe a thing like that?"
"But it is not impossible." I felt as though the
breath had been beaten out of my body, for the thing
I had been describing was a commonplace of any
day's run. "I have done it. I do it every day. I will
prove it to you any day you will come on board"
"I tell you it's impossible," he snapped angrily. "I
am an expert and I know."
"But I've done it," I repeated.
"Don't bother me any more/' he said. "I'm busy.
I've got my letters to get out."
Yet the thing I had done, the possibility of which
he denied, was a commonplace to any intelligent
student of advanced physics, and is being done on
every submarine built to-day.
Repulsed by the Navy
EN I learned that the Holland Company had
been given the contract to build a submarine
for the Navy, and that Simon Lake's plans had
been thrown in the basket I lost my temper. Nature
had not given me red hair for nothing. It was not
that I felt any personal pique. The Navy experts
could do what they pleased with Simon Lake and be
blessed to them. But when they overlooked my evi-
dently superior craft in favor of one that I knew
would not work I was infuriated.
The best of it is that I was right. My submarine
when it was built did everything I claimed for it.
The plans I submitted in 1893 contained several
features that were new in submarine designing. Pre-
vious planners had concentrated on the underwater
capabilities of their boats. It had seemed to me that
it was also important that a submarine should be able
to sail on the surface and should be fairly comfort-
able for her crew. A more or less helpless hulk would
in the end prove nothing more than a sporting target
for a surface ship of war, and a crew that suffered
unduly might be willing to surrender and get away
from misery. This may not be an idealistic way of
looking at humanity, but it is not nonsense.
Therefore I had planned a vessel that could not
only sail comfortably on the surface, but could make
progress beneath the surface at any desired depth.
The distance below the surface was controlled by
what I called regulating vanes, or hydroplanes; after
the proper depth had been reached by admitting
water to the water-ballast compartments, these planes
would keep the vessel on an absolutely even keel.
A moment's reflection will show the superiority of
this method over that used in Holland's Plunger,
which would have progressed by a series of uncon-
trollable leaps and bounds, to the intense discomfort
and even danger of her crew. This was demonstrated
in other vessels of the Plunger type.
Nor was my vesselwhich was to have been named
the Argonaut to be overfilled with machinery. When
it was finally constructed it proved to be a very livable
boat. A feature of the plans submitted to the Navy
Department was that retractable wheels were pro-
vided, which made it possible to move over the sea
bottom with ease and certainty. The wheels were to
prove eminently satisfactory in practice, but they were
called a dangerous defect when the Naval Board ex-
amined my plans in 1893.
"Imagine," one eloquent speaker is said to have
urged the Board, "the sad fate of the crew of a Lake
submarine if, in moving blindly over the bottom of
the sea, it were suddenly to run over the lip of a
Nothing would have happened, of course. A Lake
submarine on the bottom of the sea is given negative
REPULSED BY THE NAVY 47
buoyancy. That is, it balances its water ballast and
air content until it is just the least little bit less than
buoyant, and so is enabled to stay on the bottom.
If it were to run over the edge of a precipice, as the
terror-tricken orator imagined, it would merely float
slowly toward the bottom. The expulsion of the small-
est quantity of water would start it rising again. But
because no one before me had offered to attach wheels
to the bottom of a submarine, the suggestion seemed
unnatural and dismaying. The so-called experts could
not open their minds widely enough to take it in. Of
course, there were no experts on submarining then,
for there were no working submarines.
Another feature of the Lake boat was that a safety
chamber was included, affording means by which the
crew could leave the submarine in case of disaster.
It also provided for a double keel which could be
released at will, thereby increasing the flotation ca-
pacity of the boat. Other features which are to be
found in the successful submarine boats of to-day
were planned for it. It will hardly be held against me,
I think, that I got my dander up when the Naval
Board turned me down. It is not likely that I used the
modern slang, but I said what any angry modern
would say: "I'll show 'em."
There was but one way, and that was by build-
ing a submarine which would do all I said my Ar-
gonaut would. I could see that I must produce evi-
dence the value of which could not be denied if I
were to get anywhere. It was obvious that I could
not build a submarine for the Navy, for the Navy did
not want it. I had neither money nor influence avail-
able for an attempt on the navies of other countries.
The one thing I could do, if I could get the money,
was to build a submarine for commercial purposes.
That was what I had always wanted to do, anyway.
Not until my wife saw that advertisement in the
Baltimore paper had I ever paid much attention to
the possibilities of submarine use in war. It was the
thought of reaping the treasures of the seamore
accurately, of the sea bottomthat had fascinated me.
New York, then as now, was the money center of
"I'm going to New York and raise money," I told
my wife. "Then I'll build my Argonaut."
"Fine, Simon," she said. "That's what you should
My father had come to Baltimore to help me with
my business in improved steering devices and dredge-
gear winders, and I proposed to leave him in charge
of the establishment while I attacked the citadel.
Before I could get away for New York it was neces-
sary to tie up a number of loose ends, of course,
and before they had all been knotted I read a para-
graph in one of the Baltimore papers to the effect
that the Navy Department might reopen the competi-
tion for submarine planning or building. Hope
springs eternal in the breast of an inventor, and I
said to myself: "At last the chance has come."
Then I reflected that when the bids were opened
the first time I had not managed my affairs with any
skill. No one knew me, and every one knew Messrs.
REPULSED BY THE NAVY 49
Holland and Baker, who had been active through
their friends in getting the primary appropriation of
$200,000 through Congress. I had walked into the
office of the Secretary of the Navy, a greenhorn, with
a roll of papers in my hand, and I had received pre-
cisely the consideration I might have expected.
"This time/' I said to myself, "I'll do as the others
do. I will make myself known."
I asked Governor Leon Abbot of New Jersey, who
knew the Lake family and me, very well indeed, for
a letter of introduction to the gentleman who was
then Acting Secretary of the Navy. Armed with this
letter, my roll of plans, and with every morsel of
fact which had to do with submarines ready under my
tongue, I visited Washington again. Perhaps I had
not thoroughly learned my lesson as to the proper
method of procedure in dealing with politicians.
Maybe some signaling and semaphoring should have
gone before. At all events I walked into the office of
the Acting Secretary and handed Governor Abbot's
letter to a smiling colored man.
"The Secretary will see you in a few minutes," he
reported. "Won't you sit down?"
There were others in the anteroom. We sat on
the hard chairs the Government provides for the use
of suppliants waiting on dignity, twiddled our fin-
gers, eyed each other anxiously, and now and then ex-
changed remarks in whispers. Hours passed. At last,
the Acting Secretary, dressed in his little brief author-
ity, appeared in the doorway.
'Tin sorry to keep you waiting/* he said to the
assemblage, "but I'm going to lunch. I'll see you at
half-past two o'clock."
At half-past two o'clock he reappeared and walked
quickly around the room, shaking hands with all and
exchanging words with a few. When he came to me I
said: "I am Simon Lake. I sent in to you a letter o
introduction from Governor Leon Abbot, of New
"Yes, yes/' said the Acting Secretary brightly. "Gov-
ernor Abbot is a good friend of mine. I shall be glad
to talk with you a little later, but just now you
must excuse me in a few minutes I will send for
At four o'clock he reappeared in the doorway and
"I am sorry, gentlemen, but I will not be able to
see any of you to-day, for I must sign my mail,"
I did not know then that there is usually more than
one door to a politician's office in Washington, and
that the callers he wishes to see rarely run the gaunt-
let of public appearance in the anteroom. At nine
o'clock the following morning I was on hand again.
The same colored man met me with the same bright,
kindly smile. The colored messengers in Washington
are at least able to wear the appearance of sincerity
and kindness. I told him that I was still waiting for
the interview the Acting Secretary had promised me,
and that I had sent a letter from the Governor of
New Jersey to that official. The colored man returned
from a visit to the inner temple.
"He'll see you in just a few minutes, sir."
REPULSED BY THE NAVY 1
At noon the Acting Secretary again appeared in
the door to make the announcement of the day be-
"I am going to lunch. I will return at half -past
By this time my blood was beginning to circulate
pretty fast. Every one who had been in the anteroom
when I first arrived had either had his interview or
had been passed on in some other way. A new crowd
was on hand. I could imagine that some of them
were grinning behind their hands at the way I had
been treated for I saw that I was getting what the
young folks of to-day call "the run-around." I fol-
lowed the Acting Secretary into the hall and he no-
ticed, perhaps, that the storm signals were flying.
He put his hand on my shoulder.
"I am sorry to have kept you waiting this way,*'
he said, "but as soon as I get back from lunch I will
take up your matter."
This time his word was kept. He took up my mat-
ter, but unfortunately for me he dropped it again.
He heard the few words I had to say and then sent
for one of the colored messengers.
"Take Mr. Lake in to see Captain Sampson," he or-
dered. "Tell him that Mr. Lake has come to me with
a letter from the Governor of my state, and that he
has something of great importance to say about sub-
marines. Tell Captain Sampson to listen to what he
has to say and then report to me. I am greatly inter-
I was elated as I marched down the long corridor
in the wake of the colored man. But it must be that
the Acting Secretary failed to give the Negro the right
signal, for instead of taking me in to see the future
Admiral Sampson he turned me over to another mes-
senger and did not repeat the message the Acting Sec-
retary had given him. After a time the second mes-
senger came back from a visit to Sampson's office.
"The Captain will see you now/'
First I was taken before Sampson's clerk and put
through an examination. Perhaps I did not impress
him, for there were no evidences of interest in Samp-
son's attitude when I was finally ushered in to his
private office. I began to tell him of my boat and its
possibilities. He deliberately turned his back to me,
put his feet on a chair, looked out of the window,
and in the most bored tones conceivable, said, "Oh
all right. Go ahead. But make it short."
By this time I had lost my enthusiasm, I had been
treated to one cold douche after another and was
fairly tongue-tied. After I had made the least con-
vincing statement in the world to Sampson's chilly
back I picked up my hat, walked out of the room,
and vowed that I would never return until I was sent
for. And I never did. In the end the Navy Depart-
ment wanted me very badly indeed and asked me to
help it out of a hole.
I returned to Baltimore about as angry as a red-
headed man can be. It was evident that I had been
deliberately insulted, and I could not understand
why. It seemed to me that any citizen should at least
be received with courtesy by the officials of our Gov-
REPULSED BY THE NAVY 53
eminent. Years later I had some legal business in New
York, and as the former Acting Secretary had opened
a law office there I called on him and asked him to
"Yes, I am free now. I can take care of it for
"I met you once before," I remarked, "when you
were Acting Secretary of the Navy."
He looked at me queerly and said, "I remember
your visit very well indeed. You must have thought
I gave you very cavalier treatment."
"I did think so."
"There's an explanation," said the former Acting
Secretary. "Before I accepted the post of Assistant
Secretary of the Navy I was Acting Secretary when
we met, you know I had been the attorney for a
company which proposed to build submarine boats.
I knew they had spent large sums of money and that
their officers were quite confident that their boats
would be successful. I gave up that connection before
I went to the Navy Department, of course, but it is
probable that my knowledge of their affairs and my
former association with them led me to give you less
consideration than you were entitled to."
I went to New York in 1894. I had a few hundred
dollars, complete faith in my plans for the construc-
tion of a submarine to be used for commercial pur-
poses, no acquaintances at all, and not the glimmer-
ing of an idea of the manner in which money is
raised for new ventures. My brother-in-law, C. E.
Adams, took me to live with his family at Bayonne
and I rented a small office in the old Cheseborough
Building at 24 State Street. 'Gene Adams was then
assistant cashier at Pier One in the North River.
Ultimately he gave up his job to come with me and
has been my close and valued associate for over thirty
The passage of time has taken the sting out of my
experiences in New York and now they are actually
funny to me. At the moment they were heart-
breaking. I wanted desperately to prove that ' my
hoped-for submarine would be all that I claimed for
it, but I was not a salesman, and after my experience
with the Lake Canning Machine Company I was
chary of getting into the power of other men. I put
an advertisement in the papers without result. Then
I started on what was to be a door-to-door canvass
of the financial district of New York City.
A Submarine Built of Pitch Pine
IT may be that the simplicity of my plans for a
submarine their absolute lucidity frightened
off the moneyed men I approached. If I had been
wiser in the ways of the world I might have mixed
a little mumbo-jumbo with my logarithms. As I re-
member my Bible, Aaron was just ordinary folks
until he turned his walking stick into a snake. Then
he took his proper place as a magician on the big
It was my air-lock that frightened people.
Later I proved the practicability of niy device in
practice, but at the time I had only blue-prints to
offer. But, after all, certain of the more ordinary
principles of physics are known to every one. It is a
school-boy experiment to up-end a glass in a bucket
of water and demonstrate that the compressed air
will -only permit the water to enter to a certain
height. My air-lock merely carried this a little far-
ther. A door opened from the main body of the boat
into a small room, which the prospective stroller-
under-the-sea entered. This in turn had an entrance
into a sea-lock. Then the air-pressure in the air-lock
was raised until it equaled the pressure of the water
outside, the communicating door between the air-
lock and the sea-lock was opened, the diver stepped
into the outer compartment, and a door was opened
in the bottom the floor of the submarine. The
pressure of the air kept out the water. The persons
inside could look down to the bottom and, if the
depth permitted, step out on it. In an ordinary div-
ing dress the diver could walk into the water, do
whatever he wished to do, and reenter the boat with
no more difficulty than he would have in walking into
a bam. But the story somehow seemed like black
magic to those I approached.
Nerves were jumpy in those days, anyhow. Russell
Sage had very recently escaped death from a bomb
in the hands of an insane man. The newspapers were
filled with lurid stories. Cuba was struggling to free
herself from the rule of Spain, the European govern-
ments were in their accustomed state of irritation,
Russia and Japan were beginning to make faces at
each other, the Wall Street market was uncertain, and
men who had money were putting in their whole
time watching it. The set-up was difficult for the
unknown young fellow named Simon Lake. Time
after time my interviews ended in a runaway. The
routine ran about as follows:
"Er what is it you wish to show me, Mr. Lake?'*
I explained that I had invented a submarine which
was more efficient than any other.
"In it I can run around on the bottom of the sea
as readily as though I were on dry land on a bicycle."
The gentleman behind the desk would begin to
wriggle uneasily at this point. I could see I have
SUBMARINE BUILT OF PITCH PINE 57
seen the thought come into the mind of my vis-a-vis:
"This man may be mad. I must watch him."
Then I would continue, partly in desperation and
partly in enthusiasm, talking against time. I felt that
if I did not get out what I had to say in double-quick
time the interview would end.
"It is possible to open a door in the submarine and
walk out on the bottom of the sea. One could land
on a sunken wreck and make a complete examina-
tionsalvage cargo gather up valuables from the sea
By this time the man behind the big desk was often
in raptures of fear. He would press the concealed but-
ton that summoned aid. A startled clerk would open
the office door and peer in. The man of finance would
offer me his hand.
"So glad to have met you, Mr. Lake. But I am very-
busy perhaps some other time."
Relieved sighs followed my exits from offices all
through the downtown part of New York. I began
to understand at the end of six months that I had
taken the bull by the wrong horn. Instead of walking
in on a banker to tell a story that sounded incredible
and somewhat insane, I should have bulwarked my-
self with testimony that it was true and that my
.plans were feasible. It occurred to me that Charles H.
Haswell might be willing to examine my drawings
and testify that they were based on sound principles.
Haswell was something of a hero of mine. He was the
author of Haswell's Pocket Book on which I had
drawn for facts when I first began playing with the
idea of building a submarine; he stood very high in
the marine circles of New York City as a consulting
engineer. I called on him at his office.
"I would like to have you look at these plans"
Mr. Haswell was very courteous. He listened to my
statement with interest. Then he said, "I believe you
are on the right track. I will be glad to examine your
plans and if they satisfy me I will make a statement
to that effect. But it will cost you fifteen hundred
"Mr. Haswell," I said, "I'm broke. I haven't fifteen
dollars, not to speak of fifteen hundred. But I want
your opinion. If you will look at my drawings I will
pay you some time. I don't know when."
As I recall it he laughed a little at this. It must
have seemed a sample of pure impudence to him. But
there is this to be said about men who are accustomed
to deal in ideas. A new idea does not frighten them.
Instead of running away they want to examine it.
Haswell was curious about this new thing that I of-
fered him, and he agreed without much persuasion
to take his fifteen-hundred-dollar fee in stock of the
company I proposed to form, if and when issued.
After a thorough investigation he gave me an excel-
lent indorsement, but even that did not interest the
moneyed men to whom I applied. Their attitude was:
"It is impossible to ride around the bottom of the
sea in a wheeled vehicle. Any one knows that. A man
who proposes to walk out of the door of a submerged
boat upon the bottom of the sea must be mad. That
is perfectly evident. Therefore, go away, Mr. Lake."
SUBMARINE BUILT OF PITCH PINE 59
My money was gone. I could no longer pay rent,
and there seemed to be no reason why I should con-
tinue in New York. I have seen so many ragged in-
ventors haunting the doors of possible backers since
then that I am heartily grateful I carne to the de-
cision to go away from the city and build my boat.
At the moment I did not know how this was to be
done. I hardly had money enough to pay my fare to
Atlantic Highlands, where I planned to build my
boat, no money at all for boat-building, and nothing
to go on for ordinary expenses. The profits from my
little business in Baltimore which my father managed
for me barely sufficed to keep my family going. I do
not remember that I worried at all about the mone-
tary obstacles in my way. I was too set on doing what
I wanted to do. At Atlantic Highlands, I drew the
plans for the boat I had determined to call the
Argonaut Junior. The full-sized submarine for which
I had drawn plans had already been christened the
Argonaut in my mind, but this new boat was to be
a very little one and therefore rated as Junior. My
aunt and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Somers T.
Champion, who lived at Atlantic Highlands, listened
to my story with interest, and agreed to put a little
money into my scheme. Perhaps my adventures
among the New York bankers aroused their sym-
pathy. At any rate they advanced the funds needed
for the purchase of raw materials, and I built the
Argonaut Junior with my own hands, assisted by my
cousin, Bart Champion.
The boat was a tiny affair, perhaps fourteen feet
long, roughly in the shape of a flat-iron mounted on
wheels, flat-sided and flat-bottomed. She had a double
skin of yellow pine, with canvas between the skins,
and was well calked and payed. A propeller was oper-
ated by a man-power crank, pur compressed-air res-
ervoir was a tank from a bankrupt soda-fountain, and
the pump for compressing air had begun life as a
plumber's hand-pump. With it we were able to com-
press air to a pressure of about one hundred pounds
to the square inch, which was all we dared put on
the old tank.
My diving suit really should have been preserved
in a museum if only as an example of what can be
done when one has to do it. I hammered iron into
the form of an open helmet, into the front of which
I fastened a dead-light, from an old yacht, and cov-
ered the whole except for the dead-light with
painted canvas as far down as my chest. In order to
overcome the positive buoyancy of the body I tied
sash-weights to my legs, and hoped that this would
permit me to walk around on the bottom. No circus
clown ever looked any funnier. Bart Champion
laughed himself into stitches when I tried the suit on.
"Let's go, Bart," I said one day. "We're ready."
"Here's to the bottom of the sea," said he.
We wheeled the Argonaut Junior to the water's
edge and launched her very informally. No one broke
anything over her bow. Her pine sides were so frail
that a hearty swing with a bottle might have cracked
them, anyhow, and I knew that with her construction
of flat surfaces she could stand little pressure. But I
THE ARGONAUT JUNIOR
This little boat, built of pitch pine, was the first submarine ever
built that navigated successfully over the sea bottom and from
which objects could be recovered through an open door.
A MODERN SUBMARINE
The 8-49, of the United States Navy, demonstrates the vast strides
made in the development of the submarine since the Argonaut Junior.
SUBMARINE BUILT OF PITCH PINE 6l
did not propose to strain her. We got her into the
Shrewsbury River and paddled along the surface
until we got to Blackfish Hole, where there was a
depth of about sixteen feet. If we got to the bottom
an eventuality which every one who saw her assured
us was inevitable we planned to run on the wooden
wheels which were mounted on axles outside the
frame. Two were driving wheels, with a chain drive
connected to a crank inside the boat. The third wheel
at the stern was for support and steering.
"Open the valve, Bart," I ordered, when we got
into the deeper water.
"Down she goes."
She sank beautifully. But when she got fully under,
a half-inch stream of water spurted in through a bolt-
hole we had forgotten to plug. It hit Bart in the back
of the neck as he stood at a control.
"Ow," he yelled. "Let's get out."
He plunged toward the little six-inch glass-covered
porthole in the forward end of the boat, which had
been put in to admit light into her otherwise dark
"Where are you going?"
"Well," he said sheepishly, "I intended to -go out
of that porthole, but it doesn't seem likely that I
We plugged the bolt-hole with a piece of pine and
kept on going. Then we made our first underwater
run. The Argonaut Junior ran across the river and
"backed" to her place at the pier with no fuss at all.
Her water-ballasted weight held her to the bottom so
firmly that my calculations were all borne out not
that I ever had the slightest fear that they would not
be. Nor did I have any nervousness when I closed the
hatch for that first trial run in a home-made sub-
marine built of yellow pine. In fact I do not remem-
ber that I have ever felt any fear when I was in charge
of a boat. I have only been nervous when some one
else is taking her down.
Perhaps it is exhilaration that drives out fear. Once
I was caught in a storm in a little schooner we called
the Mariquita. Eventually it blew up so hard that I
had to go out on the bowsprit to tie down her jib. I
went under head and ears whenever she plunged, and
yelled like a fool when my head came above water. I
never had a better time. Another reason, perhaps, for
my total lack of fear when I am in command of a
submarine is my conviction that the only dangers to
be feared are the twins of carelessness and reckless-
ness. If everything has been seen to in advance, and
no one makes a fool of himself, or forgets, a subma-
rine is the safest kind of a boat to be in.
Bart and I had a lot of fun with the little Argonaut
for a time. We ran around on the bottom of New
York Bay and picked up clams and oysters and even
speared fish through our doorway into the water.
Perhaps the best fun I had at this time, however, was
with my Uncle James Lake. He was the head of the
Atlantic Highland Association, a minister of the Gos-
pel, and a man of dignity and standing; he resented
not only the fact that his nephew should be a crazy
inventor, but that, if he had to go crazy and invent,
SUBMARINE BUILT OF PITCH PINE 63
he should do it in Uncle James's parish. Many a time
I have seen him deliberately cross the street to avoid
meeting me. Uncle James might have carried the day
against me in Atlantic Highlands, except for the fact
that I had Uncle Somers Champion on my side. He
was one of the leading men of the community, a
notable veteran of the Civil War, a prominent busi-
ness man of the little city, and warden of our church.
A man upon whom Uncle Somers Champion cast
the light of his countenance was entitled to the bene-
fit of Atlantic Highlands' doubts.
"I think we will have to build a bigger boat," I
said to Bart Champion one day. "People look on this
as a toy. They think we are just running around hav-
Uncle Somers agreed to this, and offered an amend-
"Before you try to build a bigger boat," he said,
"show the people what you can do with this little
We arranged a public demonstration and the
mayor of the town and the president of the bank and
all the other people of prominence accepted invita-
tions to attend. We did our little tricks with the
Argonaut,, but some of the doubters seemed to feel
that they were indeed tricks. They regarded skepti-
cally the clam shells and old tin cans we brought up
from the bottom. Uncle Somers suggested a test.
"We will all write our names on a shingle," he
said to the mayor and the dignitaries, "and tie a
sash-weight to it and throw it into the water. Then
Simon can go and prowl around the bottom and try
to find it. If he succeeds well have to admit that his
boat is all he says it is."
So the leaders of thought in Atlantic Highlands
did so. A sash-weight was tied to the shingle by a
fairly long string, it was thrown into sixteen feet of
water, and, of course, sank to the bottom. Then Bart
and I paddled the Argonaut away from the pier,
closed the hatch, and submerged with as much im-
pressiveness as we knew how to muster. In no time
at all we had risen from the depths, I had thrown
open the hatch, and waved the shingle triumphantly
at the big men at the pier. No one could doubt that
demonstration. I had proven that the Argonaut could
do anything I had promised.
I have never before told a little secret connected
with that event. Before submerging I had provided
myself with a rather long hook, and when the Argo-
naut went under water all I had to do was to wave
that hook around until it caught the string. It was a
sound demonstration, of course, but the hook saved
a little time and made it a bit more spectacular.
World's First Successful Submarine
MY little Argonaut was the first submarine that
had really performed. Other boats had sub-
merged and had been driven for a little time under
water, but the Argonaut Junior did everything I
asked it to do. It crawled obediently around the bot-
tom, it permitted us to stay under for as long a time
as the air in the main compartment was breathable,
and we could step out through the water-gate on the
bottom of the sea.
But the public did not realize that the little boat
was the forerunner of the fleets of submarines which
are now to be found in every ocean. I think most
seamen looked on it as a water clown, for it certainly
did not look like anything on the earth or in the
waters under the earth. They admitted that it did
certain things never done previously, but their atti-
tude was, "What of it?"
The newspapers of the day gave it plenty of space.
Some of them carried full-page stories of the "strange
thing which came up the North Shrewsbury and now
lies high and dry on Barley Point," as the New York
Herald told the tale on January 8, 1895. But for the
most part the reporters seemed to hover between
amusement and skepticism. One man wrote an article
in the Philadelphia Press of May 10, 1896, which
annoyed me intermittently for years. He was, it
seemed to me, sardonically enthusiastic over the pos-
sibilities of the Argonaut. He foretold that I "would
wander along the bottom of the ocean and pick up
the treasures that have accumulated there since the
world began." Croesus, Barney Barnato, the Roths-
childs, and all the other rich men whose names the
reporter could remember were to be paupers by
comparison with Simon Lake. "The owners will in a
short time be rich enough to purchase a generous
slice of the earth."
I would have had something to say to the young
man who wrote this if I had seen him at the time,
for I thought it a most unfair use of the weapon of
ridicule. Years later I was his guest at a dinner of
newspaper men in Washington, and when I was called
on to speak the almost forgotten resentment boiled
up in me. To my surprise he said that he had been
wholly in earnest when he wrote the article.
"I still believe that what I wrote then was the
truth," he said. "If you had stuck to your original
purpose and hunted for sunken treasure instead of
building military submarines for governments, you
might to-day be one of the richest men in the
My position was weakened, so far as the informed
public was concerned, by the fact that the Navy
Department had given a contract to the Holland
Boat Company, after making a presumably impartial
examination of my plans. The obvious conclusion
FIRST SUCCESSFUL SUBMARINE 67
was that my offering had been weighed and found
wanting. For all that, a few friends were convinced,
either by the boat's performance or by my flaming
sincerity. My uncle by marriage, Somers Champion,
was the well-intentioned agent through whom my
greatest disappointment was brought about in the
summer of 1896. He knew Nathan Straus very well,
and told that gentleman of the performance of my
"I will come down to the dock and see what your
nephew can do/' said Mr. Straus.
I have every reason to believe that when he came
to the dock at Atlantic Highlands he was in the
humor to back me in my venture. He did things like
that. No one will ever know how many youngsters
Nathan Straus put on the road to success, and I felt
that fortune was within my grasp when Mr. Cham-
pion told me what had been arranged. I tied the
Argonaut Junior alongside the dock, in order that
Mr. Straus could make a thorough examination be-
fore I began my demonstration. Then the bad luck
It was, I think, the hottest day I have ever known
in New Jersey. There was not an inch of shade on
the dock, of course, and Mr. Straus was accompanied
by his wife. They were inseparable companions, as
every one will remember. They looked into every-
thing, listened with interest to my story, nodded their
heads in comprehension when I explained how and
why the Argonaut was able to make progress under
water, and while they suffered from the furious heat,
as I did, they showed no signs of discouragement.
"Now," I said grandly, "I will submerge the
Bart Champion and I lowered ourselves through
the hatch and I drew the cover tight. That yellow-
pine and canvas interior was hot enough to melt
iron. As I made my final preparations the Sandy
Hook steamer Monmouth charged down the river
with her load of gasping people hungry for sea air.
Either she was running a little faster than usual, or
else her bow wave struck some contrary current. The
little Argonaut was thrown up against the dock and
something went wrong with her submerging mecha-
nism. Bart and I toiled inside that pine-board furnace
until we had to give it up.
"Sorry," I said to the Strauses, "but something hap-
I went overboard in ray crude diving gear and
tried to fix the trouble. The wire rope had jumped
off the gear which made the wheels go round, and
nothing I could do helped matters. The Strauses sat
there on that blazing dock for hours until they could
literally stand the heat no longer. I saw Mrs. Straus's
face begin to turn pale and at last they reluctantly
gave it up and went back home. They never came
back. I have always felt that if that infernal gear
had not slipped when the swell hit the Argonaut, I
might have been saved years of trouble and worry,
The life of an inventor is full of trouble and worry,
among a lot more desirable things.
FIRST SUCCESSFUL SUBMARINE 69
After the Straus episode I stopped looking for
men who could put in a great deal of money and
began hunting for neighbors who could put in just
a little, but who really believed in me and my sub-
marine. I formed a company and began to issue stock
in small amounts; it was during this period that I
met a man whom I shall call Brown. He was a
man of magnificent personality. He wore spats and
a gold cable-chain that would have held a schooner,
and had a large smooth face and an expanse of vest
which made disbelief impossible. But he was more
than a mere windbag.
Brown was a really brilliant engineer. He had a
record of performance behind him and he dealt with
big men and in large sums; when he said "Jack"
Astor was his best friend the statement seemed per-
fectly credible. The last time I saw him was during
the World War. In spite of the fact that twenty-odd
years before we had parted on the worst possible
terms, he called on me at my laboratory in Bridge-
port, glowing with health and optimism. He was
then engaged in promoting something or other which
was to make millions.
"I am the man who devised the first plans for the
fleet convoys which have made it possible to get sup-
plies to England in comparative safety," he said. "A
dickens of a time I had in persuading those old ad-
mirals in the Navy Department! But I made them
listen to me/'
Maybe he had done just that, too. He was then
more than eighty years old, but he was a man of the
most engaging and forceful personality. I cannot too
much stress the fact that he was a great engineer. But
his character had a flaw in it, for after doing really
worth-while things he became a "promoter." I was
completely taken in by him at the outset. I might
well have been ruined, and perhaps disgraced, except
for one thing.
Brown's false teeth saved me.
I had stirred up a great deal o talk at Red Bank
and along the Jersey coast with my little yellow pine
Argonaut Junior, and people were beginning to show
some sincerity when they talked of subscribing to
stock in my company. One day Uncle Somers took
me to a man whom he had known a long time, the
cashier of a bank in a near-by town. It did not occur
to me to doubt him.
"Simon," he said, "if you can convince me that
your boat has commercial possibilities I'll put in five
hundred dollars of my own money. What's more, if I
think you have a really good thing I will interest
another man, who is one of the financial swells. He
knows the big bankers Jack Astor and all of them
and if he likes your boat I will invest an additional
twenty-five hundred dollars."
I was so excited over this prospect I could hardly
sleep that night. The very next evening the "financial
swell" appeared at the dock, and from the moment I
saw him I was putty in his hands. He drove up to
the bank in a beautiful open barouche in which a
black coachman held the reins over a team of mag-
nificent bay horses, and although that outfit waited
FIRST SUCCESSFUL SUBMARINE 71
for him for hours while he talked with me in the
president's room at the bank, the coachman looked as
much like an image at the end as he had at the be-
ginning. I had had little experience with the great
men of the earth, and this imposing being swept me
off my feet.
"Mr. Lake," he said, in accents of power that even
yet sound in my ears, "you have the greatest thing
I have ever seen. I am an engineer myself and can
appreciate what you have done. Your boat is the
marvel of the century. But if we are to be friends I
must be frank, my dear fellow. You have the most
absurd financial set-up I have ever seen. You will .
never get anywhere with it."
I do not remember just what I said. I know that
I did not know anything about so-called Big Busi-
ness. The Lakes have always managed their affairs
more or less on the tea-cup-on-the-mantel plan. If
there was money in the tea-cup we bought what we
wanted. If there was none we did without.
"If you will let me handle this affair of yours,"
said the mighty Brown, "I will put it on its feet.
I can interest Jack Astor and a dozen of the biggest
men on Wall Street. The very first thing we will
issue stock at one hundred dollars a share,"
Of course I said yes. I thought I was unbelievably
lucky to have interested such a man.
He lived in a huge stone house, and when I dined
there with him he had several servants, and the table
was covered with rich dishes and fine wines. He knew
how to preserve domestic discipline, too, and was as
well served as any man could have been. In those days
my meal often consisted of a sandwich and a bottle of
coffee, and the service was confined to a wipe of my
tarry hands on the legs of my overalls. It is not to be
wondered at that I believed every word Brown said.
He showed me two huge folios filled with testimony
that had been taken in a patent case.
"They wouldn't be fair to me," he said, speaking
of his former partners. "It cost them two hundred
thousand dollars before they got through, but it
didn't cost me a cent."
I went back to Baltimore to see what I could do
about building the Argonaut First. We had had
stock-books printed and had issued a call for 25 per
cent of the stock issue we had sold. Out of this we
realized about twenty-five hundred dollars, which was
deposited in a bank subject to the usual safeguards.
The head of the company which was building Hol-
land's Plunger became the treasurer of our little cor-
"I'll go in with you if my engineers like your
plans," he had told me.
Evidently they liked the plans for the Argonaut
more than they did those of the Plunger for this
gentleman took stock. He not only paid for his stock
when the calls were made, but he let me build on a
pay-as-you-can plan. When we got a little money we
would do a little work. When the treasury was empty
No moneys were paid out except on checks coun-
tersigned by both the treasurer and myself. One day
FIRST SUCCESSFUL SUBMARINE 73
Brown said to me, "I have an important matter for
you to attend to, Simon. I want you to go to Balti-
more and get your treasurer to sign up some checks
and certificates in blank. That will enable me to meet
the bills as they come in, without the present annoy-
ing delay in forwarding checks to him for signature.
Jack Astor and some of his friends are ready to sub-
scribe to stock, but they do not want their own names
on the stock-books just yet. You know how these big
fellows operate, Simon. The stock will be issued in
the names of their clerks. That is customary.*'
At first I said I could not do what he wished, but
in the end I consented to put the matter before
the treasurer. Not the remotest shadow of a doubt
about Brown had entered my mind up to this time.
When I saw the treasurer in Baltimore, he said:
"This is an unsound request, Simon. I don't like
it. I would not assent to it except that I believe you
are an honest man. But remember that I am putting
my business honor in your hands. Don't sign any-
thing unless you are certain the deal is an honest
Brown was a great braggart. He boasted con-
tinually of what he had done and the things he
owned and his personal strength. He especially liked
to clash his jaws together,
"Did you ever sfee such strong teeth?" he would
ask. "Not another man of my age has teeth like
He would snap his jaws until the teeth rang like
ivory. It never occurred to me to doubt that they
were genuine until the day I returned from Balti-
more with the checks and stock certificates signed
in blank by the treasurer. Brown met me glowering.
Two of the false teeth had been broken out in front
and the fact that he was wearing store molars instead
of the home-grown variety became glaringly evident.
He was in a furious temper and stormed through the
mahogany-filled offices of his own company in a
corner of which the Lake Submarine Company had
its meek existence.
"I'm selling half of my property/' he fairly shouted
at me. "I'm reserving the house, but I have no need
for more than half of that huge lot. It's damned good,
spot-cash deal. I'm tickled to make it."
He looked as though he dared me to disagree with
him. I did not, of course. On the contrary I thought
he was doing very well indeed in getting rid of
property he did not need, which was only dead-weight
on his hands. I knew that he had been somewhat
pressed for money, for some of the stockholders in
his company had invaded the office and had quarreled
angrily with him. At times he had locked them out in
the hall and refused to go to the door. One man had
gotten a step-ladder and thrust his head through the
"Let me in," he had yelled.
But Brown had not let any one in. His expla-
nation had satisfied me, especially as I was spending
most of my time in Baltimore, and did not know
all that was going on. He said that he was resorting
FIRST SUCCESSFUL SUBMARINE 75
to a technicality to protect his interests and that all
would be cleared up at the next stockholders* meet-
ing. But the complaints had perhaps a subconscious
influence. When he finished telling me of the sale of
his property he had arranged he said:
"I want you to do me a little favor, Simon. I'm in
a jam over taxes and until I can pay them up this
deal won't go through. I want you to lend me the
twenty-five hundred dollars 'now in the company's
treasury. I'll pay it back to-morrow."
"I cannot do that."
He went on as though he had not heard me.
"While you're about it you can turn over to me those
certificates your treasurer has signed in blank. I'll
take them over to New York and dispose of them to
Jack Astor and his friends."
"I won't do it," I said.
He yelled at me through the gap where his two
front teeth had been:
"By God," he shouted, "you will do it or I'll break
That was not good Brown technic. He was not
in the habit of losing his temper unless something
was to be gained by it, and in threatening to break
me he turned the current on through my red hair.
"Damned if you will."
"I'll build these boats myself," he bellowed,
"I'll squeeze you out. I have patents myself I don't
"You're through. You'll get out of the company
right now. I notify you that you are out"
We yelled at each other, probably incoherently,
for some time. We were both mad all the way
through. Then an idea seemed to strike us simulta-
neously. Two floors below our offices was the office
of a patent attorney to whom Brown had introduced
me. I had left certain plans with this man along with
sketches to enable him to prepare drawings and spe-
cification for additional patents I wanted to take out.
When Brown and I had this break it occurred to both
of us to find out which of us the attorney accepted as
The elevator happened to be standing at our cor-
ridor level, the door open, and the operator probably
gaping at the two angry men. I got to it first and
ordered the man to start down. Brown raced for the
stairway, but I beat him in the elevator. At the at-
torney's door I elbowed him aside.
"Who do you recognize as your clientme or
Brown? About those plans I left with you?"
The lawyer was perfectly calm. "Mr. Brown has
been my client for some time on other matters, but of
course you are my client in the matter of the plans
"All right. Brown and I are through. I do not
want you to give him any further information or
allow him to see any of the new plans."
On my return home, however, I found that Brown
had already taken a lot of plans to his office. Later
he tried to make trouble through their possession.
But it did him no good. We Jerseymen may be slow
to wrath, but we are moderately swift in action. My
FIRST SUCCESSFUL SUBMARINE 77
uncle was a sort of Justice of the Peace some kind
of law officer, I've forgotten what and we made
Brown give up the plans the very next day. Later
he took out some patents in an effort to force
me to surrender, but they were of no value, because
the Lake patents were all basic and covered every-
Our treatment of Brown was quite summary.
We first went to the bank cashier who had intro-
duced him to me. It is not considered beneficial to a
banker to be engaged in a scheme to injure a fellow-
townsman. He wanted to know how he could settle
"Make Brown resign as vice-president and gen-
eral manager, and turn over all his stock to the
company, and get out. You know how to handle
him. You can tell him what you will do if he refuses."
Brown did all these things and, in addition, turned
over all his patents to us. He made us no more
Case-Hardening an Inventor
IHE bank cashier who described me as "a simple
country boy" had been cruelly accurate. I had
been too trustful. It did not occur to me to doubt the
word of any man who was not widely known to be a
liar. My narrow escape from ruin in the Brown
incident rubbed some of that juvenile fuzz off the
peach of my nature. If I had yielded to him he would
have wrecked the company, just as he had wrecked
other companies, but what is far more important he
would have destroyed my reputation for integrity.
"You'll never do it again, Simon/' the treasurer of
the company chuckled. "One way to housebreak a
pup is with the end of a broom."
Yet I had had rather hard sledding for years. My
cold reception in Washington had taught me some-
thing of practical politics, the money men in New
York had aided me to understand the true nature of
a dollar, and I should have been more case-hardened.
Brown really transformed me. Spats, gold watch-
chain, high linen collars, and familiarity with big
names never again impressed me. The first evidence
of this change was developed in Baltimore, when I
won a fight for ten thousand dollars. If it had not
CASE-HARDENING AN INVENTOR 79
been for Brown I am sure I would have been
The Holland Boat Company was having its
Plunger built at a Baltimore iron works in 1896
which company was also building my Argonaut First
at such times as the Lake Boat Company had money
to pay for the work. The rivalry between the two
companies was based not merely on business and
professional but also on intensely personal considera-
tions. The Holland people were able to say that the
Navy Department had given them the contract, but
on the other hand several of the practical ship-
builders in the company which was building the
Plunger had taken stock in the Lake enterprise. My
first triumph came when the head of that company
asked his engineers to examine my plans.
"They like 'em, Simon," he said. "Well build
He had taken some stock in the company, and
more than once that fact saved us from embarrass-
ment, for he was able to charge, against his account
for stock, some part of the money due his com-
pany for work done on the Argonaut. I had scaled
down my original plans for the Argonaut until I
was able to show blue-prints for a boat I thought I
might be able to pay for. It was to be thirty-six feet,
nine inches over all, propelled by a White and Mid-
dleton gasoline-engine both on the surface and when
submerged, and the supply of fresh air was to be
drawn in through a hose running to a floating buoy.
The land-going or bottom-goingwheels, on
which she was to creep over the sea bottom, were
of cast-iron and seven feet in diameter, and the
ground steering-wheel in her nose was three feet
tall. In general she followed the plan of the Argonaut
Junior, with an air-lock compartment opening into
the water-lock from which one could enter the water
through an open door. A small conning-tower was
provided in which the steersman sat when the boat
was on the surface, and I planned for an iron keel
that could be dropped if through any bad luck we
were unable to rise to the surface after submerging.
The one serious obstacle we encountered was the
lack of an air-compressor. The best one we could find
was not equal to the task.
'Til design one," I said, "if you'll make it."
Chief Engineer Peacock and Chief Constructor
Mclnnis of the construction company laughed at that.
I was not an engineer. I was only an inventor, and
the practical man in a shop has a half-protective,
half-contemptuous feeling for this brooding and im-
"Well stand you the best dinner to be had in
Baltimore if you can draw plans for a compressor
that will run."
I got to work on the plans and after a time brought
them in. Peacock and Mclnnis went over them.
"The damned thing might work at that," they
When it was completed we were able to get fifteen
hundred pounds pressure, which was more than we
really needed for the depths to which I planned to
CASE-HARDENING AN INVENTOR 8l
go. Nowadays, we use five thousand pounds pressure.
Peacock and Mclnnis paid for a superb dinner some-
where on Eutaw Street, and a Baltimore dinner in
those days was something to be remembered almost
with reverence. The city was famous for its good
food, and half a dozen of the old chop-houses were
known from coast to coast. I believe the city still has
an excellent gastronomic fame, but then it ranked in
the hearts of epicures along with New Orleans, and
perhaps San Francisco. Shortly after the dinner Pea-
cock came to me.
"Any stock left, Simon?"
"Mclnnis and I will be having twenty-five hun-
dred dollars' worth each, if that suits you."
Their money helped me over one of the humps
the Lake company persistently met. Then I learned
that a gentleman named Rothert was interested. He
was one of the rich and well-regarded men of Balti-
more. About the time I went to work on him the
Holland people also heard of him as a prospect, and
between us Rothert was bombarded daily. The Elec-
tric Boat Company also entered the lists. Rothert
finally put an end to the siege.
"I may put some money in a submarine company/*
he said. "I do not promise anything. But I propose
to pick the best company for my money, and I cannot
do that while you are all shouting in my ears. We'll
have an open hearing, and may the best company
It was here that Brown, super-promoter, un-
doubtedly saved my bacon. That experience had
taught me not to be impressed by words and music.
Princes and potentates ranked along with mechanics
after my hardening by Brown. It was a good thing,
for the Holland Boat Company was represented by a
fearsome array of counsel. There was a benchful of
eminent lawyers, backed by two or three marine
engineers, and the claims of the Plunger were pre-
sented in highfalutin scientific terms. Their occa-
sional references to me and my modest Argonaut
were toned between pity and amusement.
"Now let's hear from you, Mr. Lake/' said Rothert.
I made my talk in non-technical language that any
one could understand, and the lawyers and engineers
grew restive. Presently they began to break in with
the evident intention of confusing me. A few months
earlier they might have succeeded, but I had been
case-hardened. At last I said to Mr. Rothert:
"These gentlemen say I am not an engineer. It is
true that I have taken no degrees.
"I did not go to college.
"But I have invented a number of things and they
all work. I have not heard that my friends of the
other side have invented anything. My inventions
are practical and in everyday use. I have not had the
education these gentlemen have, but I have been
in manufacturing operations and I think that is a
fair offset for an university.
"My Argonaut Junior has been under water and
I have been in her. She was under perfect control.
I do not think that any of these gentlemen have
CASE-HARDENING AN INVENTOR 8g
been under water in their boat. The Argonaut First,
which I am now building, will perform as perfectly
as its small predecessor, for it will obey the same
"I think that as a practical man, who knows what
he is doing, I can speak with more authority than
any one of the lawyers to whom we have been listen-
ing. My friends the engineers have demonstrated to
me that they do not know what they are talking
about when they discuss submarine operations. They
lack experience and knowledge/'
Mr. Rothert laughed out loud. "These gentlemen
have called you an amateur, Mr. Lake, but I can
understand what you are talking about and they
have left me confused. Here's my check for ten thou-
That tickled me, of course. Throughout my life
I have followed the same course. If I could not con-
vince the other fellow by straight talk and practical
demonstration I dropped him. I have never given a
man so much as a cigar to influence him in my
Both the Argonaut and the Plunger were launched
in August, 1897. The Plunger had bad luck from
the beginning, due to faulty design. When her en-
gines were started as she laid alongside the dock she
rolled over and, except for the fact that she rolled
toward the dock and her conning-tower caught on
the wooden structure, she must have sunk. To the
best of my recollection she never did have a success-
ful submersion. We gave the Argonaut a trial sub-
mersion alongside the dock and she worked perfectly.
Peacock and Mclnnis carried on a half-serious, half-
farcical quarrel over this initial trial.
'Til be going down in her," said Peacock. "Simon
will be wanting me along to tell him what to do."
He would wink at me here.
Mclnnis would come back at him: "You will not.
You are a married man and have no right to throw
your life away. The damned thing might never come
up. I'll go down in her and you'll watch me from the
"No," Peacock would say. "It's better that I go
down, because a chief constructor can be found any-
where, but if you were lost where would the com-
pany get another designer?"
In the end they both went down with me, which
they had had in mind doing from the beginning.
The first open-water run of the Argonaut was in
the Baltimore Harbor toward the mouth of the Pa-
tapsco. This was the first successful run of a full-sized
submarine in the United States, to the best of my
knowledge. When we reached a stretch of water in
which surface vessels would not bother us we dropped
to the bottom and cruised about. After about two
and a half hours I felt a distressing pain in my head
and Alec Cochran, who was an athlete, was terribly
sick. The air intake seemed to be working all right,
but it was evident that something had gone wrong.
"Well go up," I said to Peacock. "I don't know
"I feel all right," said he.
CASE-HARDENING AN INVENTOR 85
I opened the hatch when we reached the surface
and the moment the fresh air came in, the athlete
Cochran dropped as though he had been shot. Pea-
cock was the only one to escape a fearful nausea.
None of us could figure out what the trouble might
be. On the next day's run the same thing happened.
Engineer Wilson's eyes were so bloodshot that they
were frightening, and he wabbled as he walked.
"We'll go up," I ordered. "This won't do. We're
passing out on our feet."
Once on the surface the hatch was opened and
Wilson staggered toward the engine to shut it off,
but he was so weak I was afraid he would fall on it
and burn himself.
"Get out on deck," I told him. "I'll shut it off."
I pulled the switch and the engine backfired in
the pit. That told me the story. The vessel was full
of carbon monoxide and it is just the luck of the
Lakes that we were not all killed. I managed to get
out on deck before I fell, and I threw myself behind
the conning-tower so that I could not be seen by any
one in the little town of Spring Harbor. After a time
I regained my senses and looked about. Peacock was
standing over me.
"Peacock" miserably conscious that my tongue
was thick and my words twisted "I know whash
"Simon, you're drunk."
I have never been drunk on alcohol in my life, but
I had all the sensations then of a bum filled to the
eyes with waterfront "smoke." My head ached until
it seemed I could not stand it and ever since then I
have felt the same thing under conditions of strain
or when the air is bad. Carbon monoxide is about as
bad medicine as any that can be put in a box. I have
seen seventeen men at one time unconscious from it.
In some cases it has been necessary to pull out a
sufferer's tongue and hold it out by running a sail-
maker's needle through it. Otherwise it will drop
back in his mouth and he will choke to death.
When we got back to the dock I put in an inter-
mediate tank which caught the backfire fumes. In
subsequent tests I have run under water for ten
hours at a time, powered by the gasoline-engine, and
have never had the least bit of trouble. When I was
sure I had gotten all the "bugs" out of the Argonaut
First I decided to give a party and invite the press.
I had learned something about the uses of publicity
since my first artless days at Red Bank. It was not
enough, I learned, to permit reporters to discover
you. They insist on being shown. The principal
papers of the eastern seaboard were asked to send
reporters, and years later the Baltimore Sun's man
showed me the slip of paper on which had been writ-
ten his assignment for the day. "If Lake succeeds he's
worth a column. If he fails he gets an obit."
It may not have occurred to the news editor that
if Lake failed another man would have to be detailed
to write the obituary. For the reporter was going
along with Lake.
The Devil in the River
NOWADAYS submarines are no more of an
oddity than catboats. Even landlubbers do not
get excited when they see one. Some of the fleet sub-
marines are able to cover twenty-five thousand miles
under their own power and keep the sea for an in-
definite time. In spite of the angry denials of the
advocates of the floating fortresses called battleships,
the submarine is the only enemy these clumsy crea-
tures need fear. It is possible that they might
bombard each other without a conclusive result in a
naval battle, for they have become mere honey-
combed masses of hardened steel. But I do not be-
lieve that one can be built to be impregnable to sub-
In one of the latest types of torpedoes the ex-
plosive charge weighs five thousand pounds. It is
possible for a submarine to be so built that its prog-
gress under water is absolutely noiseless. The only
safety for a battleship would* be in a defended har-
bor, hunched behind booms and nets and a fringe
of sunken mines. For the greater part of the World
War the dreadnoughts were immured in such naval
nunneries. Submarines can be munitioned nowadays
from submerged bases, and neither the fighting craft
nor the mother ships discovered except through sheer
accident. If another world war were to break out it is
my belief that Great Britain could only be pro-
visioned by means of a fleet of cargo-carrying sub-
marines, for merchant vessels would be mere mecha-
nisms for mass suicide.
These facts would be as true to-day if Simon Lake
had never been born. Some other inventor must have
come along to make submarines practicable instru-
ments for war and peace, for progress can never be
more than checked. Other men were at work at the
same time on the same problems, notably in France,
But I can truthfully assert that my little Argonaut
First cleared the way. It was the first submersible to
do everything it was asked to do, with safety and com-
parative comfort for its crew. It was the legitimate
forerunner of every one of the magnificent craft of
to-day. Even more than that, small and weak as it
was, it was in some respects in advance of the best
The boat created a tremendous sensation in Balti-
more. I do not recall that scientists were greatly im-
pressed, for their attitude generally was that what
the Argonaut was doing could not be done. The
Navy Department took no interest at all, which is
not to be wondered at, inasmuch as it had backed the*
Plunger. But the newspapers scented a sensation and
reporters were at my heels all the time. I gave them
little satisfaction at first, for there were bugs I wanted
THE DEVIL IN THE RIVER 89
"But I'll take you for a ride under the water as
soon as she's ready," I promised.
One of the first things I had to do was to rebuild
the gasoline tank. Nothing is more infernally pene-
trative than gasoline fumes. No matter how carefully
every opening has been sealed they will escape into
the air, and if they are let into a closed room un-
pleasant things may happen. At first the tank was
inclosed in the hull of the boat, but as that was
quickly seen to be impractical it was rebuilt on her
outer skin. When we were all ready for the press
demonstration I took her down the Patapsco River
for a final test. At dusk I brought her up to the sur-
face and went ashore to buy some food at a little
country store. I found the proprietor and half a dozen
countrymen yelling with laughter.
"Jeff, he says he seen the devil/* they told me.
"Who's Jeff? Where is he?" I had an idea that I
knew the devil Jeff had seen.
"He's run home, a-yellin* and a-prayin'. That man
he's sure enough scairt."
Jeff had been in a small schooner with another
man when the Argonaut rose to the surface. They
had stared at it, puzzled, but not particularly fright-
ened, until the conning-tower hatch was opened, a
faint glow came from the lamp that had been lighted
inside, and I rose from the opening. Perhaps Jeff's
past had not been altogether to his liking at that mo-
ment, for he and his partner ran their schooner
ashore, hastily squattered over her bowsprit, and fled
up the country road.
"Funniest thing I ever heard of," shouted the
storekeeper. "Jeff's Sa 7* n ' the devil riz right out of
Then he turned to me. "Where'd you come from,
Mister? And what do you want?"
I bought whatever it was that I needed, but I did
not tell him where I came from or. that my sub-
marine was lying at anchor out in the river. Some
people are mighty touchy, I have found, and there
are good rifle shots to be found along the river bank.
As soon as I could do so I drifted the Argonaut out
of sight from the shore. I have often wondered
whether Jeff turned toward a better life.
On my first press excursion out of Baltimore we
had twenty-two male guests and Miss Ada Patterson,
who has since then made a high rating in journalism.
The trip was tremendously successful. Two men, an-
ticipating the need of a tonic, had brought along
some champagne, and when no trouble developed
they invited every one to drink the health of the
Argonaut and its crew. Only one rusty old tin cup
was to be found on board and we made a loving cup
of it. One after another the guests were taken into
the water-lock and the door opened so that they
could dabble in the mud at the bottom of the river
and rake up oyster shells and similar mementoes.
The newspaper articles which resulted were marked
by high enthusiasm, but they did not make a dint on
the scientific and naval craniums.
'Just newspaper sensations" seemed to be the atti-
THE DEVIL IN THE RIVER 91
tude of laboratory and Navy. "Very regrettable and
Perhaps most of the incredulity came from the
published statement that the Argonaut First ran
around on the floor of the bay under her own power
and on her own wheels. No one denied the boat
could be submerged. There were witnesses that it
had been submerged. But it was more difficult for me
to prove by my non-technical witnesses that the
Argonaut actually ran about on the bottom and
those who might have been technical witnesses would
not give me a chance to prove it. They only cited
reasons why the Argonaut could not do what it was
Yet during the months of experimentation that
followed I ran the Argonaut around on the bottom
for hours at a time, without having the least bit of
trouble. The water ballast could be held at a point
which gave the boat negative buoyancy, which means,
in other words, that she was just the least little bit
too heavy to rise to the surface without aid. A little
puff of air from the compressors would blow out
water from the ballast tanks and she would float up
like a cork. I have climbed forty-five-degree inclines
with her and bumped merrily over boulders the size
of street-cars. When we came to a hole I had only
to change the angle of inclination of the hydroplanes
the manageable fins which were mounted on either
side. Up she would go.
The secret was in these fins, or hydroplanes, as
I preferred to call them. Other submarines then used
horizontal rudders or similar devices, usually placed
near the stern, to govern the boat's horizontal level,
but the governing principle was to dive rather than
to submerge. The Lake boats did not dive. They
took sufficient water into the ballast tanks to permit
submergence to the desired depth on a level keel and
then maintained that level by the manipulation of
the multiple planes. My plan of controlled sub-
mergence is now in use on every submarine in the
But our own Navy Department would not accept
it until it had been adopted by the navies of Europe.
I spent many happy hours that summer cruising
along the bottom of Chesapeake Bay with the water-
gate open, so that I might see what was going on at
the bottom of the bay. Sometimes I speared fish
through the open door, and often raked up the
oysters for our evening dinner or set out trot-lines
when the fishing promised to be good. If there were
no fish to be seen there were no fish to be caught
and the Argonaut moved on. At night the lights in
the living compartment attracted fish by schools when
we were submerged. During one ten hours' test one
large fish kept his eyes glued to the dead-eye. If one
of us moved toward the port he would dart away,
but he never failed to come back. He had more in-
terest in our submarine activities than many pro-
fessors and admirals I knew at the time. I got some
excellent pictures of fish looking into the window,
THE DEVIL IN THE RIVER gg
which were published in McClure's Magazine in
January, 1899, and were probably the first of their
I do not know and I never will know why some
men seem to be so obstinately antagonistic to any-
thing which is new. I tooled around over the Chesa-
peake Bay bottom all that summer, as though I were
in a coach and four on Long Island roads, and no
naval man would listen to my story. So far as I know
no officer of any of the world's navies to-day believes
in the obvious improvements possible in submarines.
Officers laughed aloud at the thought of attaching
wheels to the bottom of a submarine.
"A nutty idea," they said. "Thoroughly imprac-
tical." But the wheels made me a million dollars,
more or less, and a million dollars are as practical as
anything I know. It was years after my initial experi-
ment in the Chesapeake Bay. I had been invited by
the Russians to submit plans and specifications for
submarines to be built in their own shops. So had
other men. The Russians knew pretty well what they
wanted, and in addition to other demands they sub-
mitted one test that was plenty stiff. "To be accepted
boats must be able to penetrate the military harbor
of Libau without being detected."
There is not a military submarine afloat to-day, in
my belief, that could meet that condition. A three-
mile-long and very tortuous channel had been cleared
to connect the outer harbor and the inner military
harbor, in which the ships of war were sheltered.
The entrance to the outer harbor was eight miles
long, and a channel had been dredged through it to
the entrance to the canal.
"You'll never see me/' I boasted to the Russian
officers directing the test.
"I will submerge in the outer harbor at eleven
o'clock and at one o'clock I'll come to the surface
in the inner harbor, alongside your biggest battle-
ship, and you will not have seen anything of me at
The operators of the competing submarines ob-
jected to this test. They knew they could not get into
the inner harbor unseen, and they were right. Their
boats leaped to the surface those which operated
on the so-called "porpoising" plan and in any event
their conning-towers could be seen when they rose to
the surface to get a look at their whereabouts. My
Protector-type boat this was long after the days of
the A rgonaut submerged when I said it would and
came to the surface alongside a battleship. I could
have blasted the big ship out of the water. Years
afterward Admiral Sims said to me: "If the Chinese
had had one of your old submarines during the first
Sino-Japanese War, no Japanese ship could ever have
gotten into Shanghai Harbor."
I got the Russian contract. Out of that contract
other contracts grew. If I had not returned to the
United States when the Navy Department officials
finally called me I would have made a great deal
more money. But I could not refuse my country.
THE DEVIL IN THE RIVER 95
It was the wheels the wheels that were laughed at
then and are probably laughed at now that did the
trick in Libau. I only needed to submerge the boat,
locate the dredged-out channel, and then nose along
it. It is not possible to see the route ahead when
a submarine is under water, but when I felt the
Protector begin to climb the sides of the dredged-out
channel I merely shifted helm and got back into the
ditch. It was the easiest and the simplest game I have
ever won. I had studied the canal in advance and
knew where the turns were made, and when I hit a
turn I merely pulled back and felt for the ditch
again. It was like feeling your way along the walls
of a strange house in the darkness of night. You
move slowly, but if you know where you are trying
to go you'll get there.
I had been pretty well discouraged by my failure
even to interest my friends in the Navy Department,
and as I had done previously, when I built the little
Argonaut Junior, I proposed to experiment in the
commercial field. I was sure that valuable cargoes
could be recovered from sunken wrecks and worked
out several devices which were to prove useful. While
I was fiddling with my Argonaut in the waters near
Baltimore, the air filled with war possibilities. Cuba
was trying to escape the Spanish rule, and the Ameri-
can papers were filled with stories of the fighting on
the island, along with frequently expressed fears that
we might be drawn in. One day I received a message
from a great New York City publisher. "Will you
come to New York to discuss with me the possible
sale of your Argonaut?"
Of course I went, but in the city I did not meet
the publisher. Instead I was taken in to one of his
managers, and we talked over the possible sale of the
Argonaut. I had come provided with blue-prints and
specifications, and at last I made him see that if I
could do what I said I could do, and do it every time,
I had something the Navy Department had not seen
and should see.
"Will you go down town and have a talk with the
men of the Cuban Junta?" he asked.
I would consult with any one in those days. The
more people I could interest, the better were my
chances of getting the considerable financial backing
I needed to make my submarine the success I knew
it could be. The Junta then had quarters on Pine
' Street, and its business was conducted, so far as I
could see, like that of any other office. If there were
spies and beautiful women and agents provocateurs
I saw nothing of them. The spokesman for the Junta
heard my story and looked at my exhibits.
"Could the Argonaut go as far as Cuba?"
"She could go around the world."
"Will you contract to take her to Cuba and lay
some mines in places we will point out?"
"Not me." The Lakes are a cautious and not a bel-
ligerent family. "We are not in this war. The United
States is neutral. I do not propose to get myself into
a dove hitch."
THE DEVIL IN THE RIVER 97
"In that case and we understand your position-
will you sell the boat?"
I thought that over for a minute, then said, "Yes.
I'll sell. I'm not supposed to know what you want to
do with her. If you use her to plant mines that's your
Cold Feet Cost Lake Three Million Dollars
IT was right here that I lost three million dollars,
if one can say that money is lost which one never
had. The members of the Junta seemed to be thor-
oughly sold on my Argonaut, although not one of
them had seen it in action. They gathered in corners
and held mysterious conversations which I presume
had to do with the potential danger of the Argonaut
to the Spanish ships of war. Now and then one of
them would shake hands with me and pat me on the
back and beam and say something in Spanish which
was evidently nice.
"You will, of course, demonstrate what you can
do/' the Junta asked through the interpreter.
"I ask nothing better/'
Karl Decker was assigned, by the great publisher
who employed him, to play the part of liaison officer
between the Junta and myself. Decker's name at this
time was probably better known to the American
public than that of George Washington. He had had
many daring adventures in Cuba as a correspondent
attached to the rebel forces, and one of his exploits
was the rescue of Evangeline Cisneros from Morro
Castle. The papers were full of it; the beautiful
Cuban girl was the heroine of the day and Decker
COLD FEET COST LAKE 3,OOO,OOO 99
was the man of the hour. It is perhaps possible that
Miss Cisneros was not rescued from Morro Castle,
but from a less impregnable stronghold, and that
some good American money changed hands, and the
young lady may not have been as lovely as she
seemed to be on the first pages. These are merely
cynical reflections. At all events Decker became a
believer in the Argonaut.
"I have arranged that the most important man in
the rebel forces shall witness your demonstration,"
said Decker. He told me the name of this gentleman
but I have forgotten it. He was either a general or
an admiral I am sure of that and looked to me
precisely like a Cuban patriot should look. He was
tall, sinister, black-bearded, silent, slender. At all
times he wore a black cloak draped about his shoul-
ders. He could have gone on the stage and played
the part of First Rebel without change.
"If he is satisfied, you have sold a submarine," said
I had learned some business sense from my en-
counters with Brown and with business men. No
price had been put on the boat by me and no offer
had been made by the Junta. I thought it was time to
get down to brass tacks.
"What's your offer?"
"The Junta has little money," Decker explained.
"What funds it has been able to secure are earmarked
for arms and ammunition. But the Junta is now cer-
tain of victory. Cuban officers are victorious in the
field and Spain is weakening. The bonds which are
being issued by the Junta will soon be worth par."
"What are they worth now?"
It was a difficult question to answer, for as a mat-
ter of fact they were worth nothing at the time.
Those who bought them did so because they wished
to help Cuba. They could not be resold for a dime.
This was explained to me, although I knew that
much already. Yet I was prepared to dicker, for it
would be the sale of the first submarine ever made
in the world for use. Submarines may have been sold
by sheriffs or transferred to the unfortunates who had
contracted to build them, or disposed of to navy de-
partments because the sailormen wanted to see what
they could do. But if I sold the Argonaut it was be-
cause I was able to guarantee that she would deliver
the goods promised. I asked again, "What's your
"Three million dollars in gold bonds of the Re-
public of Cuba. Worth nothing now, but certain to
be worth par soon."
"Sold," I said.
The Argonaut was lying in the Patuxent, off the
little town of Spring Gardens. Decker and the mys-
terious admiral and I went to Baltimore by train and
then boated down the river to the anchorage. I ex-
plained everlastingly to Decker. He would listen, ask
questions, nod his head enthusiastically, and interpret
to the admiral. That saturnine person did not light
up at all. He seemed to understand what Decker was
talking about, but he asked no questions and made
COLD FEET COST LAKE $g,OOO,OOO 1O1
no comments. We got in the submarine and drove out
to a safe ground for the demonstration. No surface
vessels were in sight, and the depths of the water
I closed the hatch and we submerged.
The admiral began to seem less nonchalant. He
glared at Decker and asked questions. Decker ex-
plained. I had not the remotest idea what it was all
about, for I was watching my engines and gages.
"Now," I said, "we will go into the air-locks."
The admiral was as jumpy as a frightened girl
when he found himself cooped in this bare chamber
with two men, one of whom was practically a com-
plete stranger. I fear he had less than a soldierly con-
fidence in Decker. I told Decker what I was about
to do, he told the admiral, and I turned on the air.
It hissed into the air-lock and the pressure began to
rise. The admiral went completely mad. He leaped
in the air and swore in Spanish I may not be a
Spanish scholar but I know profanity in any language
and deprecate it and, waving his arms, seized Decker
by the shoulders and pulled him around. He pointed
"Assassin!" he screamed.
Maybe it was not "assassin." I did not know the
word, but the meaning was apparent. Decker tried
to calm him and waved his arms and outyelled the
admiral and shook his hands and talked sometimes
low and sweet and sometimes blunt and dominating.
The admiral began to screech like a parrot.
"It's no use," said Decker. "He's lost his nerve
completely. Well have to go up."
So we went to the surface again and returned to
the anchorage* The admiral went ashore with Decker
and me. Just as he got his feet on the land a street-
car crossed the long bridge over the river, and he
ran for it like one possessed, his long black coat
streaming out behind him. I never saw him again.
The sale of the Argonaut was definitely off. Yet it
was not many years before those gold bonds of the
Republic of Cuba were selling in the open market at
par. If the admiral had not gone batty I would have
had three million nice golden dollars. It was a dis-
appointment, but I took it philosophically. Already
I had learned that an inventor's life is full of disap-
I suspect that if one could get at the truth the
mystery of the sinking of the Maine might be un-
raveled, taking this incident of the Argonaut as a
primary clue. In our fragmentary conversations at
the headquarters of the Junta in New York we had
discussed the possibility of laying mines in Havana
Harbor. The Argonaut was not equipped with tor-
pedo tubes, not only because torpedoes were not yet
a thoroughly practical weapon, but because I had
intended the boat for commercial use. But it would
have been the easiest thing in the world to open her
water-gate and place a mine just where it would do
the most harm.
"But how would it be exploded?" the Junta had
COLD FEET COST LAKE 3,OOO,OOO
It would have been easy enough to attach an ex-
ternal trigger so that a mine would explode on con-
tact. But war was perhaps not quite as ruthless as
it became during the period beginning with 1914.
Military men were not yet willing to risk the lives
of innocent civilians on the chance of sinking an
enemy ship, and so the preferred method was by
shore control. Wires were laid from the mine to a
control station. By the commonplace method of tri-
angulation it would be possible to decide if and when
an enemy ship were immediately over the mine. A
pressure of the key and the trick would be turned.
I think the Cubans planned to use the Argonaut
in mining Havana Harbor, in order to sink the
Spanish war-ships which were almost continuously
resting there. They rarely anchored, for technical
reasons, but instead were tied to buoys. Some of the
buoys were set apart for the use of the Spanish ships
of war, and others for commercial vessels and war-
ships of other nations. It is at least possible that a
mine had been towed out into the harbor by night
and submerged alongside of one of the buoys ear-
marked for the Spanish ships.
By error or intention, the Maine was directed to
tie up at this buoy.
It is unlikely that any one will ever know whether
our battleship was sacrificed by the Cubans in order
to get us into the war, or whether the mine was ex-
ploded by mistake under the American ship. At all
events we were at war with Spain not long afterward.
In the meantime I had been prowling around the
bottom of the Patuxent in my Argonaut, discovering
precisely what she could do. I had in mind that if I
could find some laden wrecks money might be made
by salvaging their cargoes. I found the wrecksplenty
of them but none with cargoes that interested me. I
remember that on one occasion I submerged along-
side the hulk of a tug that had sunk in seven fathoms
of water, after a fire. I put on my diving helmet and
went out into the water to investigate. I had been
trying out a search-light which had been fairly satis-
factory in clear water at a distance up to forty feet,
but I was not using it on this occasion. After I got
to the bottom I found it difficult to stay there, for I
continually floated toward the surface, and had to
kick vigorously to get down again. To make things
easier I worked toward the tug.
"I'll just get hold of one of her ribs/' I said to
I put out my hand and grabbed hold of a toadfish
a horrid, slimy, disgusting toadfish. I shall never
forget the nausea that almost overcame me, locked
up as I was in the diving helmet, but I stuck it out
for half an hour. Then I began to feel queer. Some-
thing more than mere stomach-sickness was wrong
with me, but I did not want to go up, for I did not
want the boys to know that the old man couldn't take
it. At last I could stand it no longer and up I went.
When I took the helmet off some one cried: "What's
the matter, Lake? You're swelled up like a toadfish."
My head was swollen like a toy balloon and my
eyes half closed. My reason told me that toadfishes
COLD FEET COST LAKE $g,OOO,OOO 105
are not poisonous, but I'll admit that I had rather a
worried moment before I discovered what was wrong.
In making my dive I had struck the air-valve and
half closed it, so that I had been breathing carbonic-
acid gas instead of the good clean air the boys
thought they were pumping down to me. It was a
small matter, but an intensely unpleasant one. To
this day I think of it whenever I see one of the
abominable toadfish in a catch at sea.
The war with Spain was now in full blast, and I
made another effort to get into my country's service.
I had demonstrated to my satisfaction that I could
lay mines or tear up cables without the least diffi-
culty or interference, and it seemed to me that the
Argonaut should be of real value to the United
States. I wrote a letter to Theodore Roosevelt, then
Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and told him what
I had been doing and what I could do, and put the
Argonaut absolutely at his service. He replied to me
immediately. Unfortunately his letter seems to have
disappeared from my files, but the gist of it was: "I
believe every word you say. Your explanation of the
Argonaut is a convincing one. I shall arrange for the
appointment of a Naval Board to take this matter
up" Years have passed and my memory may be
somewhat in error; however, I am sure that I have
stated accurately the contents of his letter. But there
were many things to divert his attention and time
went on. Presently he arranged to get into the war
himself in person, as the movie stars say and he
formed his Rough Riders. I do not know whether he
ever put the matter before the rulers of the Navy.
At all events I heard nothing from them a condition
to which I had long been reconciled. I decided I
would give a demonstration of my own.
Hampton Roads had been mined as a protection
against enemy ships. Later on we learned that *the
Spanish fleet was not a formidable one, but then we
knew little about it or its whereabouts. I moved
down to Hampton Roads and browsed about in the
channel as though the Argonaut were a peaceful old
cow and the channel a pasturage filled with succulent
grass. Once I drifted past a mine at a distance of
five feet and saw it plainly through the window of
the conning-tower. It was a weird experience, al-
though I believe that none of them were set to ex-
plode on contact. Thanks to the fact that the Argo-
naut moved on wheels and that I could look out of
an open window onto the channel bottom, I traced
the cables and located the mines. I thought I would
be able to convince the hardest-headed naval officer
who ever put on a cap.
I told the Navy what I had done.
The Navy did not respond. The inference was that
the Navy continued not to be interested. The Navy's
sentiment seemed to be that Simon Lake was in
again, and nothing could be done about it, but that
no human power could make the Navy listen to him.
But I am a persistent person. Later experience proved
to me that I was right in my early conviction that
there is hardly anything that cannot be done by a
man who knows his business and keeps at it. I called
COLD FEET COST LAKE 3 , O OO , OO O 107
on the commanding officer of the army post at Fort
"You say you have done these things," he grunted
in reply. "Then why do you come to me? Why don't
you go to the Navy?"
"I have been to the Navy. The Navy will not
There was a pause for reflection. The Army and
the Navy are competitors. Neither is precisely fond
of the other. The commanding officer obviously did
not believe the story I told him, but no doubt he
thought that if by any chance I were telling the truth
and he could prove it, he could pull the Navy's cap
down over its ears. He said:
"Here. Take this chit. Go see our engineer officer."
I have forgotten the names. I took the command-
ing officer's note and called on the engineer officer.
He gave me the most impressive impersonation of a
bored man I have ever known.
"Not interested," said he.
"Don't you understand/* I asked, "what it is that I
have done? Don't you comprehend what this might
mean in wartime?"
"Well/' he said, "what you tell me isn't possible.
I don't believe a word you say."
"I've been all over the cable field/' I shouted at
him. "I can draw a plan of it. I can show you where
every one of your cables is and where your mines
The engineer blew up. "Don't you ever do it
again/* he yelled, bringing his chair down on its
four legs. "Damn it, I won't have it. If I catch you
at it TU lock you up."
His reversal of position was only partial, however.
Apparently he was convinced that I had done the
things I claimed, but he refused to see their signifi-
cance. Simon Lake and his submarine were not to be
considered and to hell with them both. So I left
Hampton Roads and went down to Virginia Beach
to play around with the Argonaut. The channel was
closed at sunset then, because of the war, and no-
tices had been sent out that any vessel caught in the
prohibited areas might be fired upon. One day we
ran well out in the Roads, and were so interested in
what we were doing that nightfall came before we
were aware of it.
"We're liable to catch it this time, Simon," said
We submerged and crept into a pleasant anchor-
age. Then we came up until only the conning-tower
was visible and lay there all night, while the search-
lights played over the water. If we had been seen
the guns might have opened on us, but we could not
be seen. I might have gone ashore and told the Army
and the Navy what I had done, but it is never wise
to wound the amour-propre of commissioned officers.
The two services jointly held that I could not do the
things I said I was doing every day, and that if I were
caught doing them they would throw me in the brig.
They were not very consistent, but they were at least
COLD FEET COST LAKE $g,OOO,OOO 109
It was at this time that Captain Sigsbee, who had
been in command of the Maine when she was blown
up in Havana Harbor, came into Hampton Roads
with the Yale, a fast liner the Navy had taken over.
He had as assistants two young lieutenants who had
been in one of the disastrous attempts to cut the
Spanish cables off Cardenas. They visited me on the
Argonaut and when I told them what I had been
able to do in locating mines and cables they asked
Captain Sigsbee's permission to make a trip with me,
A young officer is nearly always more willing to listen
to a new idea than an older one who has been tied
up by years of red tape and precedents.
"No," said Sigsbee. "A submarine is a dangerous
craft and you are the only naval men I have. I won't
take the risk of losing you."
The youngsters were confident that if they had
been given the chance they could have ripped every
Spanish cable off the coast of Cuba, but they did not
get it. It was not until eight years later that a Board
appointed by President Taft watched a test con-
ducted off Newport, and reported that this method
of cutting cables or laying mines provided the best
harbor-defense means known to its members. Even
now the American Navy does not own a submarine
with these characteristics, although several other
countries have undersea boats equipped with them.
The Argonaut Makes Good
I WAS bitterly angry at the Army and the Navy at
this time. Of course I was. I had developed a
submarine which, if not perfect forty years later
the submarine is not perfect at least was able to de-
liver the goods I promised and no other submarines
could or did. I was thirty-two years old, full of
strength as a barracuda, red-headed and, as I be-
lieved, a deeply injured man. I saw other men with
other submarines get sympathetic hearings from con-
gressional committees and naval authorities, and
money and contracts. I was the only man who could
do anything under water and I was not even per-
mitted to show what I could do. Because what I did
was doing every day was so far ahead of what any
one else had done, I was looked on as a nut. The
joint attitude of the Army and Navy was: "Lake is a
crank and a liar. He cannot do what he says he
does. If we catch him doing it we'll knock down his
Years passed before I thoroughly understood the
reasons for this contemptuous neglect. Mind you, I
am not the only inventor to be treated like a bound-
boy. Only within a comparatively recent period has
invention come into its own. Nowadays scientific
THE ARGONAUT MAKES GOOD 111
articles fill the newspapers. A man who can do some-
thing in a new and more efficient way and can prove
it is sure of a hearing. Even the armed services do
not entirely close their ears, for the drums of pub-
licity are forever thumping just outside headquar-
ters 1 -windows. Forty years ago the Army and Navy
were something between a social club and an exclu-
sive cult. Generals were still wearing side-whiskers
and epaulets, and civilians were poor creatures only
fitted to shoulder arms and swab decks.
The fundamental reasons why inventors were kept
at arms' length by the services are still in operation.
Perhaps they always will be. It may be that they are
unavoidably a part of the system.
I was not the only inventornot by an entire class
of inventors to suffer from this military attitude.
Practically every worth-while weapon offered to the
Army and Navy either has been developed because
of civilian pressure or has been accepted in Europe
before being taken up by Americans.
During the Revolutionary War Dr. David Bush-
nell of Saybrook, Connecticut, invented a submarine
that was actually practicable. Only because of an acci-
dent it failed in its initial test, and yet it so thor-
oughly frightened the commandants of the British
ships then stationed in the Hudson that skippers
slipped their cables and went down to Sandy Hook.
He actually sank a schooner by means of a floating
mine. General George Washington complimented
him for his ingenious device. But the military au-
thorities of the day so derided him that he left the
country. Years later he settled in Georgia under an
assumed name and practised medicine there until he
Robert Fulton was not recognized by his home
government and the only recompense he ever re-
ceived for his submarine experiments was from the
British Government. Ericsson was laughed at by
American military men and built his first Monitor
with private capital. When she sank the Merrimac
she was on builders' trial and had not been accepted
by the Government. Maxim went to England to get
his gun accepted and Hotchkiss first found backing
in France. The Wright brothers were laughed at
until France accepted their airplane. The Browning
and Lewis guns were refused here until France and
England had proved them.
No American will admit that the officers of our
Army and Navy are not as intelligent and alert and
patriotic as those of any other nation. It is the system
that is at fault, as I see it. Without a rigid discipline
an armed force is no better than a mob. For years our
Army and Navy were small in numbers and promo-
tion was slow and difficult. A graduate officer of West
Point or Annapolis who "stuck his neck out/' as they
say nowadays, was a man marked with a cross. If a
young man favored a new thing and the new thing
proved successful, he made fools out of his superiors
who had refused it. A wise young man took no
chances. If the new thing failed the young man who
favored it was lost. Each superior officer was moved
by the same considerations. If he accepted anything
THE ARGONAUT MAKES GOOD llg
sent up from below he made himself responsible for
the possibly wild ideas of an almost unknown young
man. If it failed he took the punishment, but if It
succeeded the young man might get the credit.
The easy way was to say "No" to all the tribe of
irresponsible, cockeyed inventors.
Many of them are cockeyed and irresponsible, too.
Quite recently I have had plans submitted to me for
the building of perpetual-motion machines. The
Patent Office records are littered with schemes that
can never work. Men are continually sending me
blue-prints of mechanical idiocies. If I examine them
I waste my time. If by chance one of them is thor-
oughly practical and I have been at work on the same
idea myself, I am exposed to the possibility that the
other man will charge me with theft if I patent mine.
An instinct of self-preservation has led me to refuse
to look at most not all of the plans that are sent
me. I am told that the movie magnates have been
compelled to adopt a parallel course. They do not
read scenarios that have not appeared in print, and
thus save themselves from charges of plagiarism.
At any rate, the end of the Spanish War found me
in possession of a submarine that was admirably prac-
tical but which had not secured a kind look. I spent
months at Hampton Roads in exploring three wrecks
which I had located, but as I lacked salvaging equip-
ment I could not recover their cargoes. There was
nothing more to be accomplished at Hampton Roads,
for what I needed was money for more building, and
the money simply was not there. But one thing had
been accomplished. I was no longer an unknown
man, and the press had given my little Argonaut a
tremendous amount of sensational publicity.
"I will take the Argonaut around to New York,"
"Murder and suicide," said friends and enemies
alike. "That queer thing can never meet the seas out-
side the protection of the land. She will roll over
"The Argonaut" I protested, "is a perfectly sea-
I was right about the little vessel. She proved to be
perfectly seaworthy, but the Atlantic Ocean hardly
played the game with us. We chugged out of the
Chesapeake Bay, through the Delaware and Chesa-
peake Canal and the Delaware River, as placidly as
though we were sailing a paper boat in a bathtub.
But when we got "outside" we found that things
were happening on a big scale. The November storm
of 1898, in which two hundred vessels were lost along
the coast, was blowing up. If we had suspected that
we were to be in for the worst kind of bad weather,
we would have run for safety, of course, but we did
not. Until the storm had become so bad that there
was grave risk for all shipping at sea, we really did
not know what we were in for.
The Argonaut had very little reserve buoyancy,
for she had been planned to operate under the sur-
face and on the bottom. The more reserve buoyancy
she had the more difficult it would be to submerge
THE ARGONAUT MAKES GOOD 115
her. Furthermore, she was cigar-shapedthat being
the form which submarines had taken up to this
time and little attention had been paid to shaping
her hull for operating on the surface. She grunted
along through the storm, barely showing a segment
of her hull above water at any time, and for the most
part practically submerged. Inside the conning-
tower we were blinded by the masses of water that
continually washed over the boat. We steered by
compass, of course, but it was also necessary that
the enormous seas be met squarely. Otherwise, sea-
worthy or not seaworthy, there was an excellent
chance that the Argonaut would be rolled over like
"I'll go outside," I told the boys.
"Somebody'll have to," some one said.
There's no nonsense about a sailorman. When a
thing has to be done he does it. My men knew that
a man lashed to the outside of the conning-tower,
over which the seas washed almost as though it were
a rock at half-tide, would not be precisely cozy. They
thought nothing of it. Neither did I. It had to be
done and I was the man who could do it best, for I
knew the Argonaut as no one else did. The water
froze on me as we plowed on, and by the time
we got into the "Horseshoe" back of Sandy Hook,
at three o'clock in the morning, I was a block of ice.
The experience did me no harm. Out of it I got con-
firmation of two previous impressions.
The first was that the Argonaut was not long
enough to be handled easily in rough water.
The other was that she had to be reshaped. The
cigar form did not give her enough buoyancy.
As soon as it could be arranged financially, there-
fore, I had her cut in two, and a twenty-foot-long
mid-section slipped in. Of far greater importance,
however, a ship-shaped form of light plating was
built around and on her pressure-resisting hull. This
superstructure was opened to the sea when it was
desired to submerge her, and water was permitted to
enter the space between the inner and the outer
hulls. This equalized the pressure on the light outer
plating and prevented the buckling which must
otherwise have resulted from submerged pressure.
The superstructure also increased her buoyancy when
on the surface from 10 to about 40 per cent and she
rose to the seas like an ordinary vessel, instead of
wallowing sullenly through them like a floating log.
This plan of hull construction has been adapted
by all the builders of submarines since then. At the
same time I changed the design of the original cigar-
shaped hull, and devised one with rising axes. This
overcame the danger of diving by the head which
was a defect of the cigar-shaped form, increased the
speed on an equivalent displacement, and gave a con-
siderable increase in metacentric height over a vessel
of equivalent length and beam. This ship-shaped
form of hull is only suited to level keel submergence,
and must be controlled by hydroplanes.
Incorrectly informed writers have given credit for
this improvement, which made sea-going submersi-
bles possible, to the Krupps of Germany, to Naval
THE ARGONAUT MAKES GOOD liy
Constructor Laubeuf of France, and to Naval Con-
structor Laurenti of Italy. It is a fact, however, that
on April 2, 1897, or ^ore than a year before we
made our voyage "outside" to Sandy Hook, I had
applied for a patent covering these features. Years
later the Krupps contracted to build submarines for
the Russian and German governments, and decided
to adopt the Lake type of submarine, A contract was
drawn with them for the use of my design, which
they accepted by wire. The records of the patent
offices of the world show that mine is the pioneer
patent covering this type of vessel.
The Argonaut's successful battle with the storm
made one of the sensations of the day. The papers
were filled for a week or more with the tales of
vessels that had been lost at sea, and the story of
our half-submerged wallowing into safety was one of
the high bits of color.
The tale was printed in France, and Jules Verne
whose Nautilus had been responsible for my descent
into the sea in a submersible cabled congratulations.
That was one of the finest moments of my life. I have
always maintained that Jules Verne was even more
remarkable as a scientist than as a writer of romantic
fiction. He had that penetrating imagination without
which no inventor gets anywhere, coupled with an
extraordinarily exact knowledge. There is to-day no
better reading to be found than the novels of Jules
Verne. I reread them from time to time, not for the
purpose of reviving the memories of my youth, but
because they are great stories.
Ice-Water Cure for Pneumonia
ONE of the other consequences of that voyage of
the Argonaut through the storm of 1898 was
that I was at last accepted seriously by the public. It
was only natural that heretofore the publicity given
to the Argonaut and its inventor had been of a more
or less sensational kind. Reporters knew that never
before had men been able to move about on the bot-
tom of the sea, to reach an arm out of a window and
pluck a sea-flower or gather a handful of oysters for
dinner. The fact that they were able to do these
things gave them a thrill and they wrote the most
glowing stories. But I suspect that the mass of the
public put the Argonaut and its inventor on the
freak shelf, along with the men who talked of build-
ing automobiles and flying-machines and those other
tomfools who were wasting time over what was later
to become known as the wireless.
The good, average men who had a little property
and a fair education liked to listen to us. We were
exciting, for one thing. Our wild talk gave them a
feeling of superiority, for another.
But after the Argonaut had smashed and rolled
her way through the November storm to safe anchor-
age in the Horseshoe behind Sandy Hook some of
ICE-WATER CURE FOR PNEUMONIA lig
the men whose names stood for reliability as well as
enterprise in the journalistic world began to take an
interest in us. Ray Stannard Baker, who was then
the bright shining star of McC lure's Magazine, which
itself was the forerunner of many breaks with musty
precedent, got in touch with me one day. He said he
wanted to have a talk with me about the Argonaut
and submarines and exploring the sea bottom and
the possible usefulness of these strange devices
in the next war. The fact that the Argonaut had been
able to come through one of the worst storms in
recent memory along the Atlantic seaboard had im-
pressed him. It is possible that up to this time he
had looked on it as a mere toy. I do not know.
"I want to bring an artist with me," he said, "to
get a sketch of you. A man named Stevens. Sure you
"I'd like to have him."
I was then living with my family at Atlantic High-
lands, in a big old house that had been standing
empty for the better part of the previous season.
Something had gone wrong with the heating appa-
ratus, and when Baker and Stevens arrived the house
was as cold as the middle cavern in an iceberg. The
family was able to exist around the kitchen stove, I
suppose, but I could not take my distinguished guests
there, even if the family had welcomed them. Baker
kept his overcoat on and Stevens had a sweater and a
"But I don't want to sketch you in an overcoat,"
said Stevens. "If you don't mind taking off your coat,
111 be through in fifteen minutes."
Of course I did not mind. I was as husky as a
water-buffalo, I had come through the battle with
the storm, lashed and iced to the outside of the
conning-tower and soaked with November seas, and
had not reported even a sniffle, and I had never yet
come to the end of my reserves of strength. Some-
times I spent days in alternating between the cooking
temperature of the Argonaut when her engines were
at top speed and the frosty winds of her exterior, half
soaked at that and never the worse for it. My physical
endurance approximated that of a Chesapeake Bay
dog. But there is a proverb about pitchers that keep
on going to wells. Mr. Stevens' fifteen minutes
stretched to four hours, and next day I woke up with
a little fever and a tightness in my chest I had never
felt before. My wife was worried.
"Better stay in bed to-day, Simon," she said.
"Just for a little while. I'm tired, somehow."
. The little fever developed into a hot fever and the
tightness became a pain. My wife sent for Dr. Fay
and the word came back: "The Doctor is too sick to
come. But he sent along a thermometer and said that
Mr. Lake should hold it in his mouth for one min-
ute. Then it is to be returned to him."
I had heard of self-registering thermometers but I
had never seen one. I held the tube in my mouth
until I thought the temperature had been registered,
and then took it out and tried to find out how much
ICE-WATER CURE FOR PNEUMONIA 121
of a fever I was running. But I couldn't find the
register. I fooled with it for a time and then called
the messenger and sent it back to Dr. Fay. A hard
snow had set in and the pellets of hail were rattling
against the windows like fine shot. In an hour or two
there came a knock at the door and there stood Dr.
Fay wrapped up in all the clothes he could find, with
his eyes swollen and watering and a cough that jarred
"My God, Simon," he said, "are you still alive?"
"Why shouldn't I be alive?"
"Because I never heard of a man who had a tem-
perature of one hundred and eight and lived."
He tried the thermometer again and found that
while I had a hot fever, the register was nowhere near
one hundred and eight. After a time I worked out
what had happened. In my curiosity about the me-
chanical features of the thermometer, I had held it
in front of the old Rochester coal-oil lamp we used
to light the room, and the heat of the lamp had
driven the mercury up in the tube. Dr. Fay was
pleasant about it. Sick as he was he laughed at me.
"Nothing else could have been expected of you,"
he said. "You'd have postponed dying while you tried
to find out how the machine worked/*
Next day the hard snow was followed by a stiff
northeaster. The Argonaut had been tied up along-
side the dock at Atlantic Highlands, with a caretaker
on board. Toward night he came galloping into the
"The Argonaut is pounding against the dock with
every wave/' he said. 'Tm afraid shell start a seam
and sink. What will I do?"
There was only one thing to do. The Argonaut
had to be taken from that dock into the safe anchor-
age of the Horseshoe, and I was the only man to do
it. So I got into my clothes. I took the engineer
along to run the engine and we cast off from the
dock. It was a hard thrash through the gathering sea
until midnight, and for the whole time I was at my
old post, lashed fast outside the conning-tower, ice
forming on me with every breaking wave. Once
ashore I walked three miles before I could find a rig
in which to ride home, but the next morning I had
no sign of pneumonia never felt better in my life.
But I don't recommend the treatment.
Much the same thing happened when I was just a
youngster. I had taken out a little schooner, the Susan
Daugherty, for a short cruise, and a day or so out I
began to run a fever. I did not want to cut the cruise
short, so I laid some blankets down on the floor of
the cabin, alongside the trunk for the center-board,
and undertook to sleep it off. That night a storm
blew up and I was called to the deck to handle her.
We were drifting toward the shore.
"I'll have to furl that jib," I said.
I crawled out on the bowsprit, and every time we
met a wave I went under neck and heels. But I got
the jib tied down and then went back into the cabin
and began to catch up on my sleep. When I wakened,
the fever was gone and I had the appetite of all
ICE-WATER CURE FOR PNEUMONIA
appetites. Again, however, I would not suggest this
treatment to the medical men. It might not work
Our finances had been partly restored thanks in
part at least to the advertising which resulted from
the Argonaut's triumph over Davy Jones and I de-
cided to begin work on the changes that had been
determined on. The Argonaut was to be lengthened
by twenty feet, and the sea-going superstructure
added. I worked her round to Robbins dry-dock in
Brooklyn and we got her out of the water and up on
the pier. When we first tied up alongside the Robbins
dock we were welcome as the first flowers, for the
Robbins Company had little work in sight and not
much on the dock. But then business began to come
in as a result of the ending of the Spanish War. In
one day seventeen United States transports came in
for repairs. They got the attention, for the Govern-
ment had the money. Now and then a workman came
around to look at the Argonaut, hit her a lick or two
with a hammer, and then went away again. W. R.
Todd was then superintendent of the Robbins Ship-
building Company. Later on he was to organize the
W. R. Todd Company and become one of the coun-
try's foremost ship-builders. Bill was a great man and
a driver, who knew every inch of his business, but
he was inclined to be a bit heavy-handed at times.
This is not a criticism. The man who can run a ship-
yard must be all man. I had been bothering him to
get to work on my Argonaut, but my position was
weak, for I had no money and I owed a lot for the
work that had been done. I was confident that the
money would come in, but I did not know when or
where it would come from. One day I bore down on
Todd, determined to get some kind of action, but
Bill beat me to it.
"Hi, Simon," he said. "I'm getting damned tired
of seeing that Argonaut of yours hanging around
here, taking up good room. If we got rid of it we
could do some business. Anyhow, it's damn near time
we had some money out of you."
"She'd have been out of here long ago if you had
put some men at work on her. But you have got a
lot of tramps in this yard. I've watched 'em. Give
me some men who know their business and I'll get
her off the dock in no time at all."
Those were fighting words, of course. Todd roared
"You complain about the way we've treated yotu
My God Almighty, don't you know there's twenty-
two thousand dollars worth of extras charged against
her right now?"
"There isn't a nickel's worth of extras on her, Bill.
Don't you ever read your contracts? Mine called for
twenty-five dollars a day penalty if you did not finish
the job on time, and no extras to be charged unless
I gave the order in writing."
"Is that so?" Todd yelled. "Is-that-so?"
"You bet it's so. Haven't you even read the letters
I have been writing the company, in which I com-
plained of the manner in which this job was han-
ICE-WATER CURE FOR PNEUMONIA 125
"I'll talk no more with you," said Todd. "You go
see the boss."
In the end I got to see Mr. Robbins himself. He
was no longer very active, but he kept in close touch
with his business. He heard me very pleasantly and
at last said: "This is a matter for the lawyers, Simon.
Ill see what mine says. You come in at four o'clock
to-morrow and 111 tell you what 111 do."
At four o'clock the next day I was on hand. Rob-
bins smiled at me.
"Tell me, Simon," he said, "who wrote that con-
"I did. Every word of it."
"That's what my lawyer said. He said no lawyer
ever had a hand in it. He said, 'It's so plain and clear
that any jury in the world would find for Lake. You'd
better settle.' "
Robbins sent word to Todd to let me pick the men
I wanted and to let me boss the job. That made it
easy. The only trouble was that the good mechanics
had been put on the government jobs and I had been
given a bunch of bums. In two weeks we had
the new Argonaut in the water and ran her around
to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where I had lived at one
time. We had a tremendous reception bands, school-
children marching and waving flags, flowers, speeches.
I determined to please my friends by giving her a
We invited twenty-eight persons to go with us, and
twenty-seven of them accepted. The banks of the
river were lined with people. When I cast off I prom-
ised the crowd that we would return by two o'clock
in the afternoon, but after we were submerged we
simply lost track of the time. It was only possible
to take two people at a time in the air-lock with me,
and every one of the twenty-seven wanted to have
that experience. At four o'clock we returned to the
official pier and came to the surface. Bill Doyle, the
editor of the Bridgeport Standard, was standing on
one of the posts of the dock. When we got near the
dock he shook his fist at me.
"You damned fool!" he yelled. "Do you know what
you have done, you idiot? You had us all scared to
death. We thought you were all dead!"
In the earlier type of Argonaut we drew air in
through a hollow mast fifty feet long. While we were
resting on the bottom, having a grand time sending
our friends out to pick clams and oysters and beautiful
iridescent jingle-shells from the bottom of the Sound
this mast extended above the surface of the water,
of course. John Fisher, one of the star singers for
the phonograph company, entertained us with "Down
Went McGinty" and other appropriate and tuneful
songs, we cooked and served our guests a fish dinner,
and had a bully time. Among our guests were the
mayor of Bridgeport, the heads of the telephone and
Locomobile companies, and various bankers, mer-
chants, and professional men. There is no doubt that
Bridgeport would have sustained a mighty loss if they
had been drowned.
When we did not return on time the people along
the shore got worried and sent out a tug to find out
ICE-WATER CURE FOR PNEUMONIA 127
what was going on. The men on the tug had no diffi-
culty in finding our mast protruding from the water
and rapped on it to get our attention and find out
what was going on. But McGinty was going down
uproariously, the chowder was being eaten, every one
was talking, and between times my friends were
being taken into the air-lock by one's and two's. No
one heard the raps on the mast.
"They must be all dead," the tugmen reported.
The good folks of Bridgeport wired Merritt and
Chapman of New York to hurry a wrecking barge to
"1*11 not allow the newspapers to carry a line,"
declared Doyle, or some one else in authority. Or
perhaps the journalistic chiefs got together in this
agreement. "What we fear is too horrible. Nothing
shall be printed until we know all."
But the news got around, as news has a way of
doing, and when we finally approached the dock at
four o'clock the streets were jammed with silent
people, waiting for the news of the tragedy. Doyle
apologized later for bawling me out, when he learned
from the mayor and the other guests that if I had
been at fault, at least the fault was shared by all
the others. He had no support from my guests. They
had had the time of their lives. Now and then I see
some of those who are still alive and they are still
Success in Salvaging Sunken Cargoes
I HAD been licked in my encounters with the
Navy, blown, you might say, right out of the
water. I did not like this. I do not ever like to take a
licking* But it seemed there was nothing I could do
about it. I said to myself, "One of these days they'll
want me, but I'll never go back to Washington until
they send for me."
Then I went to work on what was, after all, my
real job. I had never been much taken by the military
possibilities of the submarine. It would be a mag-
nificent weapon some day. Any one could see that.
But I was not interested in drowning people and
sinking ships. The thing I had always had in mind
was the salvaging of cargoes from ships already sunk,
and doing other commercial and scientific work.
There must be enough jewels on the floor of the sea
to hang a necklace on every good-looking neck in
America. And there were plenty of heavy cargoes,
too, that would be worth bringing to the surface. If
high naval authority is well informed, the entire ship
population of the Seven Seas is sunk once every
twenty-five years. A ship can, under certain circum-
stances, almost last forever, but few of them do, I
have a list of seven thousand vessels carrying valuable
SUCCESS IN SALVAGING CARGOES
cargo that have been sunk in comparatively recent
times. If I had let the military men alone and stuck
to the salvaging idea I would have made a great deal
more money in the years to come. It is true that I
might not have had so much fun.
The rebuilt Argonaut was practically fitted to the
sound new business on which I proposed to embark,
It was big enough to hold a crew large enough to do
the work. It wheeled over the bottom as though it
were a bicycle on its wheels with their foot-wide
tires. Each wheel was three feet in diameter and
under a modified arrangement could be housed in
the keel when it was not lowered for travel in the
water-bed. A "cushioning" bowsprit was also fitted,
with a heavy wire running from its tip down to the
keel. With this arrangement I could run over boul-
ders or small wrecks. Remember that the Argo-
naut when submerged could be so controlled that its
negative buoyancy was only a few pounds. It was
actually possible to step out on the sea bottom,
through the door in the diving compartment, and
move the whole boat by the comparatively slight pres-
sure o one hand. When we went automobiling on
the bottom of the sea it could rise over any obstacle
the bowsprit could top, and travel safely up the sides
of declivities with angles of as much as forty-five
degrees. No surface automobile could do as well.
I told my friends at Bridgeport that I proposed to
search the sea bottom and they believed me. This
was almost the first time, it seems to me, looking
backward, that I had not been met by doubt, if not a
blunt denial, when I announced my plans. But the
twenty-seven people who had been my guests during
the four hours' submergence which had so frightened
the people of Bridgeport had spread the story of
their experiences. We had cooked a meal under
water, played games, gathered sea-shells through the
door which opened into the water, and had a very
jolly time. They refused to believe that the Argonaut
could not do anything I promised for her.
"There are plenty of sunken vessels hereabouts,"
the old sea captains told me.
"I can find them," I promised.
"If you can find one of 'em you've got a fortune."
One of the lost vessels belonged to the Thames
Towboat Company and had been consigned to the
Orford Copper Company in Brooklyn with a load of
copper ore and copper matte from New London,
Connecticut. Seven years previously she went down
during a storm and the owners of the cargo had im-
mediately sent out a wrecking tug in an effort to
locate her. The wreckers failed, and then a former
superintendent of the company, knowing the value
of the ore and matte, fitted out a searching expedi-
tion of his own. After two years he gave it up.
"You'll never find her," the old sea captains said.
"My new wreck-finder will locate her inside of two
days." It did, too, off Hammonasset Point. When the
usual preliminaries had been gotten through we
went to work to salvage the cargo. I sent samples of
the ore and matte to various smelters, but the win-
ning bid came from the original owners. They knew
SUCCESS IN SALVAGING CARGOES 131
the intrinsic value because the ore had been taken
from their own mines. It made us a very pretty penny
and confirmed me in the belief I had held so long
that the salvaging of lost cargoes is a business worth
the attention of any man.
Before bringing up a cargo it is necessary, o
course, to find the wreck. My predecessors in the sal-
vaging business had dragged the bottom in a more
or less desultory fashion. The fact that two thor-
oughly competent wrecking outfits had hunted more
or less continuously for three or four years in an
effort to find the vessel with the cargo of ore and
matte is evidence enough that something was wrong
with their plan. My wreck-finder was simplicity it-
self. For that matter, most worth-while ideas are.
With my method we were able to search about
twenty square miles of bottom each day, provided
the bottom were free of obstructions other than
wrecks. In a very little while we had located sixteen
sunken vessels in Long Island Sound. There was not,
so far as I know, even local tradition on the names
and fates of some of them. One was led to reflect
somewhat soberly on the life the sailor leads. The
average land-keeping mechanic would be on his soap-
box every Saturday night to complain of his hard
fate, if he worked half as hard as the sailor does. The
sailor is wet most of the time. He is turned out of his
half-dead sleep in the middle of the night to help
save his life and his vessel, and he finally drowns
anonymously, no one knows where. Yet there is rarely
any shortage of seafaring men.
No one had ever tried to salvage cargoes in a really
businesslike way. Divers had been sent down to break
into the strong-rooms of vessels in an effort to recover
treasure, but salvaging of that kind is disproportion-
ately expensive and rather dangerous. It is miserably
easy to foul a diver's lines, and the necessity of de-
flating the diver that is a heartless way to put it,
perhaps, but that is precisely what happens when the
air-pressure is lifted is a tedious one. If it is not
managed properly the diver will be attacked by the
painful "bends" and perhaps die. I had realized that
my enterprise would only succeed if we had new
I built a submersible cargo-carrier which proved
to be a complete success. It was shaped like the
pressure-resisting portion of the Argonaut, cylindrical
in form and air-tight. In practice it was anchored
near a wreck, and by means of air- and water-valves
the air was permitted to escape and water to enter.
When on the bottom the diver removed the hatch
cover, the boat was loaded, the compressed air was
turned on and the water forced out, and the boat
rose to the surface.
That operation was easy enough if the conditions
were right. Some of the sunken boats were loaded
with coal, which is an easy cargo to handle. We
merely ran the muzzle of a big suction pump into
the hold, drew the coal into the submersible freight
boat, and then walked away with her. The coal in
one of the cargoes we recovered was of a lovely
iridescent purple and blue, and we found that it
SUCCESS IN SALVAGING CARGOES
must have come from the famous old Peacock mine,
which had not been worked for seventy years or more.
The cost of recovering coal was only about fifty cents
a ton, and it was salable for several dollars a ton as
rapidly as we could get it on the dock, for coal is not
injured by water. Our deep-sea equipment permitted
the recovery of three hundred tons an hour at two
Not all cargoes could be handled in this easy and
profitable fashion. We found one with a deck cargo
of scrap-iron, and hides and flour in the hold. The
vessel had been sunken at least thirty-six years, for
we communicated with the postmaster of the town in
which the hides had been made, and found the tan-
nery had been out of business fully that long. The
exterior of the scrap-iron was rusted into a solid shell
but the inside was all right and we broke it up and
got it out. We sold both the hides and the iron at a
profit, and my recollection is that the flour in the
center of the barrels was dry in spite of its long sub-
mersion. It was a fine, adventurous business in which
we were engaged, with a distinct gambling flavor. We
worked hard to get our lines on three vessels, only
to discover that two were loaded with stones and the
third with oyster shells. They were not worth bother-
Heavy cargoes, especially of materials that had been
welded into solid masses by time and water, of course
could not be pumped out. For jobs of this kind I
later employed a different rig. The heavier machinery
was placed on board a surface vessel and only the
mechanical devices needed for the diver and his
operations were in the auxiliary submarines. For
other operations a tube was employed, large enough
for a man to descend comfortably on a ladder, and
with a well-lighted observation chamber at the lower
end from which he could walk into the water just
as though he were stepping out of the water-lock on
This tube had one very great advantage over any-
thing that had been tried before. A diver was not
continually yanked and mauled by the currents of
the sea. The movement of the water below the surface
is about the same as on the surface. That is to say,
a ten-foot wave, from hollow to crest, will stir the
water for approximately ten feet below its greatest
depth. The surface vessel to which the diver is at-
tached is continually rising and falling, and some-
times is under the constant necessity of maintaining
its position through the use of power. It is fatally
easy for the long lines trailing behind a diver to loop
around some projection of a wreck, because of this
intermittent pull from the surface.
My submersible ship for a diver's operations, how-
ever, lies quietly at rest on the bottom. In the lesser
depths the diver does not need to use the tube but
operates as I have previously described. When it is
necessary to attach the tube to a surface ship, as I
have done when the use of the submersible mother-
ship did not seem advisable, a ball-and-socket toggle
on the tube took up most of the play due to the
movement of the surface.
1 'V.-v 'J&'-ss;
. ' ' . ,^V$*
.V;.''' 1 .;^.<lgi^i
CROSS-SECTION VIEW OF A MINE-PLANTING SUBMARINE
SKETCH OF THE LAKE SALVAGING TUBE
With this apparatus, Simon Lake has experimented successfully in
retrieving treasure from the ocean floor.
SUCCESS IN SALVAGING CARGOES 135
Early in my salvage operations the fact was brought
home to me that playing around sunken wrecks may
be far more dangerous than cruising over sea bottoms
looking for enemy cables to cut. We were lying along-
side a rather good-sized wreck.
"She has a big overhang," the diver reported.
"We'll keep clear of her."
Easier said than done. The diver was in and out,
doing his work, and the Argonaut shifted her posi-
tion. There might have been a bottom current. Some-
times there is. Perhaps the movement of the man
inside started her, for when a submersible is very
nicely balanced under water, it sometimes happens
that the change of balance due to the change in
weight positions will give the boat a slight impetus
in one direction or another. When we were ready to
ascend we closed the water-gate and blew out the
ballast tanks, but the Argonaut did not rise.
"Better go out and see what's the matter."
We let the water in again to hold her stable, and
the diver investigated. He reported that the Argo-
naut's nose was firmly snuggled under the wreck's
overhang and that he could not move her.
"What's worse," he said, "there's so much loose
wreckage floating around down there that if you start
the propellers you might snap them off."
There we were, stuck hard and fast on the bottom.
We could not go on blowing out our ballast tanks,
for we had only a limited amount of air. The one
thing we could do was to sit there and wait for the
tide to change, and try not to tell each other ghost-
stories. Eventually the tide changed, the Argonaut
wriggled her nose out of the clutch of the overhang,
and we were free. But as soon as we got on the deck
of the surface vessel two of my men told me they had
given up a subaqueous life for good. They were very
nice and polite about it but they were firm. They
were not like another man, who was detained at an-
other time under water by one of the annoying little
incidents that used to happen in those early days.
"When I get out of here," he said, "I'm going to
tell a funny story to Simon Lake."
At last the boat was freed and came to the surface.
"What's your funny story?" asked the mate.
"This is it," he said, as he got into his coat and
took his dinner bucket. "You tell Simon Lake to go
to hell. I'll never set foot on that submarine again."
Some years later I was to use my apparatus in
efforts to recover historic sunken treasure, but in the
meantime some exciting events were to transpire.
My salvaging operations on heavy cargo proved to
be genuinely profitable. They carried me through
the year 1900 with a nice profit in the bank, the
field was widening out before our eyes, and it seemed
to me that the Lake family could hardly avoid hav-
ing one millionaire in it. Our submarine explora-
tions attracted so much attention that years later I
received a most remarkable message. The World
War had been fought and won by the Allies with
the aid of the United States, and we had so far re-
turned to a normal state of mind that we began seri-
ously to contemplate the salvaging of the Lusitania's
SUCCESS IN SALVAGING CARGOES 137
cargo. One day I got a letter, written on excellent
stationery, by a woman who was evidently a person
Dear Mr. Lake [she wrote], I see by the newspapers
that you are about to undertake the salvaging of the
Lusitania's cargo. If this is the truth, I wish to ask you
to do me a very great favor. Do you mind recovering my
100,000 diamond necklace? I value it not only for its
intrinsic value, but because my husband gave it to me.
Finding it will be a simple matter. It is under the pillow
in my bed in Stateroom 357 Deck B.
The funny thing is that it might be found right
there one never can tell though I doubt if the
pillow has lasted.
Invention of the Periscope
A BLIND submarine would no more frighten
an enemy than a blind hawk would worry
a henyard. Every one of us at work on submarine
designing knew that quite well, but not one of us
had ever succeeded in giving eyes to our monsters
once they were submerged. It is true that we could
cruise on the surface with the conning-tower exposed,
but that would be only a target in wartime. If the
presence of a submarine were suspected an enemy
vessel need only wait around. Sooner or later curi-
osity or one of the various needs of operation would
compel her to "breach" like a whale. What would
follow would in a way resemble trap-shooting. If the
gunner were quick enough he could hit the clay
"I want to get my seeing eye above surface in some-
thing so small that It will not attract attention," I
told my associates. "Something as nearly invisible as
In fact, I was describing the periscope of the fu-
ture, but as yet I had no idea how that mechanism
could be made to function, nor even what it would
be. That is the way inventions are born. One has an
idea, and then one fumbles around with it for a long
INVENTION OF THE PERISCOPE 139
time. Meanwhile we had tried various experiments.
John P. Holland had equipped his Plunger type with
what he called a "camera lucida/' which did not dif-
fer so widely from the cameras obscura which used to
be side-show attractions at the country fairs. The
faint reflection of the landscape might be seen in
shadow on a white background, but no indication
of direction or distance was given. It was not a prac-
In my hunting about for an "eye" I remember that
one of my schemes was to send a man to the surface
in a buoy, which could support him there while he
made his observations through glass windows set in
its slides, but I do not believe we even made a model
of this device. Nor did we build the "observation
cage," a water-tight, barrel-shaped container in which
a man could be lifted above the water by means of a
hinged mast. The mast, when not in use, would lie on
the deck. As soon as I had reduced these plans to the
blue-print stage I realized their absurdity. Then I
got the idea which was the progenitor of every peri-
scope in use to-day. Without the periscope the sub-
marine navy would be helpless.
I say I got the idea, but that was all. I talked with
people who knew something about optics, and after
they discovered what it was I wanted to do they
joined the very considerable body of good citizens
who thought that Simon Lake was crazy. Without
exception they told me that what I was trying to do
could not be done. There seems no doubt that they
won the argument on points. But I insisted that it
must be done.
"What I wanted to do was to assemble some lenses
and prisms at the outer end of a tube and direct a
view of the surrounding scene down the tube to an
eyepiece or a mirror or perhaps only a white cloth
in the conning-tower. I knew very definitely what I
wanted to do and I had not the remotest idea how
to do it. I bought all the books I could find on optics
and studied them, and ultimately got a little clearer
vision of my original idea. Then I saw a job lot of
lenses in a show window and bought them all, "as
is." I do not now remember how many lenses I got,
but it was plenty, of all sizes and descriptions. When
I had nothing else to do I would assemble various
combinations of lenses and prisms on a drawing-
board and stick it out the window of the Bridgeport
Nothing ever happened.
I could not see anything through my combinations,
no matter how I changed them. I was going at it
blind, for I knew almost nothing about the laws of
optics, and when by way of amusement I worked out
the mathematical sum of the possible changes I was
horrified. Then one day I set up a combination I
had never tried before and thrust it out of the win-
dow on the drawing-board-
Miracle of miracles, I could see!
It was a dull, heavy day, and I can still remember
seeing in the little reflecting mirror the picture of
Bridgeport's street and the tree-shaded pavements
INVENTION OF THE PERISCOPE
and people walking and wagons rolling toward the
harbor. I had succeeded in doing what every one had
said could not be done. A submarine need no longer
cower blindly under the water when in enemy neigh-
borhood, but could go about its dangerous business
like a real sea-serpent. I was tremendously excited.
Then the door opened from the inner office and one
of the draftsmen called to me to pass on some prob-
lem that had arisen. I went into the other room,
leaving the drawing-board with the prisms and lenses
sticking out of the window over Bridgeport's street.
While I was in the drafting-room rain began to
That may seem a matter of small consequence, but
as a matter of fact a five-minute shower delayed the
creation of the periscope-that-was-tchbe for weeks.
The office-boy was suddenly overcome by efficiency,
and seeing the board with the lenses being wetted
by the rain he pulled it in. Of course, the lenses
were all jumbled up. I found that I had not the
slightest idea in what order they had been arranged,
and I could not rediscover the combination through
which I had been able to see. I spent days in shuffling
and reshuffling the parts of my puzzle and nothing
happened. I could not recapture that first brilliant
view of a crowded Bridgeport street which for a brief
part of a minute had been the most satisfying sight of
my whole life.
About that time I learned that a member of the
faculty of Johns Hopkins University was considered
the best man on optics in the country. I packed my
grip and started for Baltimore to tell my troubles to
the professor. He listened to me in patience and
then shook his head.
"Sorry to disappoint you. You are trying to do the
"But I've done it."
The professor sat up at that. "That puts a differ-
ent face on it. Tell me just what you did and what
I was able to give him the focal lengths of the
lenses and other bits of information.
"Come back to-morrow. I may be able to tell you
He worked on it that night and the next day was
able to describe to me the optical principle on which
the periscope of to-day is based. After some experi-
menting I was able to secure practically normal vision
through a tube of considerable length. Later I
learned that Sir Howard Grubb of England was ex-
perimenting with a similar device at about the same
At first the heads of other periscopes were rigid, so
that in order to get a view of the entire horizon it
was necessary to swing the ship. But this was not
satisfactory. I wanted to see everything the moment
the head of my sighting instrument protruded above
the water. My hope was to get the same compre-
hensive view that one might get if, for example, he
were looking down on the scene through a hole in
the bottom of the basket of a balloon. I wanted not
only to see everything in its proper proportions but
INVENTION OF THE PERISCOPE 143
to measure the distance an enemy ship might be
from us and the speed at which it was traveling. I
called this instrument the "omniscope," meaning "to
see everything/' and built several of the type for our
first Russian boats. But they were not successful. I
was able to see the entire horizon at a glance, but
the distances did not seem normal. Then one day I
discovered how and where I was wrong.
I was walking down a street in Braunschweig in
Germany, returning to my lodgings after a visit to the
shops of the Voightlander Optical Company, where
our instruments were being made. It was as though a
curtain had been lifted for me, and I stopped short
in the street.
"Simon," I said to myself, "you're a fool. You
can't outdo nature." Man is not equipped with a fly's
eyes. His view is extremely limited, for he can only
see clearly about two and a half degrees of the three
hundred and sixty degrees of the horizon. If you
doubt this, look steadily at a fixed point for ex-
ample, a finger held about one foot from your eyes
and then hold a printed card in the other hand
about three inches to the right or left of the finger.
You will find that you cannot read the printed matter
without moving your eyeballs to bring the letters in
focus. The objective lens in the head of the periscope
simply produces the image and transmits it through a
right-angled prism down a tube. At the foot of the
tube the first image is viewed by another long-focus
lens and this is turned right side up and magnified
by the lens in the eyepiece. This may sdund extremely
complicated, but it is entirely simple in action. Be-
cause of the loss of light it is necessary to reduce the
field of vision to about forty-five degrees to make dis-
tant objects seem normal.
While the periscopes I installed in our early boats
were capable of being rotated or elevated, some other
builders used fixed periscopes. The first serious acci-
dent coupled with loss of life in the submarine di-
vision of the British Navy might be charged against
the periscope. The A-i was running in the English
Channel with her periscope exposed. The lookout
on the A-i did not see a fast steamer coming up on
her and the steamer did not see the periscope. The
A-i was lost with her entire crew.
Our company built the U-i and the U-2 for the
Austrian Government, both with the rotating type
of periscope. Austria also purchased another type of
submarine, which was equipped with the fixed peri-
scope. One day this boat took her station alongside
the pier and the commander emerged through the
conning-tower hatch. I've no doubt he said, "Donner-
wetter! Pig-dogl Dummkopf! . . ." and many other ex-
pletives that may have occurred to him, for a white
something was fluttering from her conning-tower.
While the boat had been running submerged, except
for the head of the periscope, some humorous officers
had run alongside in a small launch and tied their
visiting-cards to the tube. In those days the ma-
chinery was so noisy that those inside could not
possibly have heard anything from the outside, and
the slight bump when the launch made contact with
INVENTION OF THE PERISCOPE 145
the U-boat must necessarily have passed unnoticed.
Incidents of this kind soon brought about a change
in the periscope equipment. Nowadays it is custom-
ary to use two periscopes, one being used to con the
ship's course and the other to keep an eye on the
water in all directions. In this way the danger of
surface collisions is lessened, and a competent navi-
gating officer will have so definite a notion of the
number and whereabouts of the ships in the vicinity
that little will be risked by again submerging. When
navigating officers were only able to see three or four
degrees of the horizon through the first periscopes
a real danger was encountered in coming up after a
Once, I remember, we ran across the bows of a
Bridgeport excursion steamer, and knew nothing of
it until the next day. On another occasion we came
up under a pleasure launch, and the launch lodged
against our conning-tower. We felt the bump, of
course, and when the steersman peered out through
the portholes he looked into- a pretty little boat filled
with screaming ladies. He saw them rather than
heard them, and had a good story to tell of their
startled eyes and their white teeth, but their voices
did not penetrate the conning-tower hatch, already
clamorous with machinery noises. I reversed her en-
gines and submerged again and the launch with the
load of ladies was left floating and unharmed. An-
other time we banged up against the bottom of a
big barge but did no damage except to snap off our
flagstaff. Nowadays the underwater hearing devices
have been so nearly perfected that a submarine can
locate any vessel moving in its vicinity, so that the
danger we once accepted as a trade risk has been
Luck was with me all through the incident of the
discovery of the periscope. It was luck that gave me
that first combination of prisms and lenses. The next
good fortune was that I found an old German who
knew more about the practical end of the business
of optics than all the rest of America. He was the
only man on this side of the water who could make
crown-glass. Without this there can be no prisms,
and he had introduced prisms to this country al-
though, poor devil, he made no profit out of it. We
planned together our first rough but workable peri-
scope before turning that end of the business over
to the Governments scientists. When we began to
build submarines in Europe the periscopes and range-
finding devices were made in Italy and Germany.
There is this grave defect about a periscope. It is
next to useless at night, and yet submarine com-
manders always operate under cover of darkness
when this is possible, I have invented a night-seeing
device which I believe will be practical, but it has
not yet been given a thorough test. To describe it as
simply as possible, it is a dome of silvered glass which
in use barely projects above the surface of the water.
The observer is able to see in all directions and the
dome itself is practically invisible at a distance of
one hundred yards.
The Argonaut was no longer considered a freak at
INVENTION OF THE PERISCOPE 147
Bridgeport. She was a working lady, scavenging about
on the floor of the Sound, and making a very good
business of it. The newspapers had stopped paying
much attention to her, for she was no longer news,
but the Navy watched with a good deal of interest.
John P. Holland had built the Plunger under the
appropriation granted by Congress in 1893, but the
Plunger obstinately insisted on living up to her name.
She would plunge magnificently, but she could not
be controlled, and was finally abandoned in 1900
without having made a single submerged run. Mr.
Holland built in her place a smaller boat, the Hol-
land^ which was accepted by the Navy, and in June,
1900, Congress authorized the Navy to contract for
five more boats of the Holland type, at a cost of
Congress did the picking and buying in those days
and the officers of the Navy, who really knew what it
was all about and who had the job of working and
fighting the boats that Congress bought, were hardly
listened to. The Navy did not like the Holland boat
at all, even if Congress did, and some of its officers
quietly urged the claims of Simon Lake's hard-work-
ing little Argonaut. After all, the Argonaut was sub-
merging every day, as a part of her day-to-day busi-
ness, and acting as though it were a commonplace. No
other submarine had ever remotely approached that
record. Every submarine of which I had knowledge
at that time was submerged as an adventure and her
return to the surface was regarded as an escape. One
day I got a telegram from Eugene Hale, of Maine,
at that time chairman of the Senate's Naval Affairs
Committee: "Come over to Washington and see me."
Sometimes nowadays I -wonder at myself. There I
was, having fought through some hard years, safely
established in the profitable and conservative busi-
ness of salvaging, with good prospects ahead and no
competition. Nothing could have been better, and
the taste was all the sweeter to me because of the
bitterness o the very recent past. There had been
one time when I was so hard up that for three days
we could not work because I was unable to pay a
Bridgeport merchant's bill for seventeen dollars. The
only way I could get the money was to borrow it, for
we dared not move the Argonaut from her buoy,
and only those who have borrowed money under such
conditions know the reluctance with which dollars
leave their owners' warm pockets. But we had grown
triumphantly solvent, we had credit everywhere, a
nice balance in the bank, and not a debt in the world.
I knew precisely what I was offered by that tele-
gram from Hale. I would get a chance to lose my
money, wreck my business, dissolve my credit, waste
my time, be bedeviled by politicians, and get the run-
around and the high-hat from naval officers who did
not know anything about me or my Argonaut and
did not care. It was common knowledge that there
was a submarine lobby in Washington which was
using indecent methods, and I knew that because I
was a submarine man there was danger that I would
be tarred with that stick.
Yet I went to Washington.
INVENTION OF THE PERISCOPE 149
The truth is, of course, I wanted to build a Lake
submarine for the Navy. Every inventor sees his in-
vention and the rest of the world through his own
spectacles. I was as sure that my submarine was bet-
ter than any other submarine as I was that the Presi-
dent lived in the White House, and I felt that if the
American Navy were possessed of a fleet of Lake
submarines my country would be safe from any at-
tack by sea. To be candid about it, too, I had been
pretty badly treated by those who should have treated
me well. I had been compelled to meet opposition
which used unfair weapons, and I was angry. When
I saw Hale I found him well informed and sympa-
"Go over and see Rear-Admiral Melville/* he said.
"He knows what is going on."
Melville was a fine old seaman. He had long white
hair and a kindly face and the most honest eyes I
ever looked into, and he swore like the very devil.
It was shocking to hear him, not because of his pro-
fanity but because he looked so much like a saint
"A lot of Goddamned treasury-robbers are trying
to shove boats down the Navy's neck," he bellowed.
"Our hands are tied. I cross the street when I see
one of the Goddamned thieves coming my way."
Hale felt the same way and so did many other
honest men in both Congress and the Navy Depart-
ment, but there was not much that could be done
about it. Congress did the buying and the insiders
knew how to slick their little jobs through the con-
gressional committees and how to set up interference
against the outsiders. Melville swore like a buck pri-
vate in Flanders.
"We'll take a look at your damned boat, anyhow,"
he said. "By God, they can't keep us from doing
The Board of Construction of the United States
Navy then consisted of Rear-Admirals Melville,
O'Xeil, Bradford, Francis T. Bowles, and Captain
Sigsbee. I found they knew pretty well what I had
"Draw up some plans," growled Melville. "Let's
see what you've got. Maybe we can circumvent those
During the year 1900 I prepared plans for three
types of submersibles. One was for a small boat which
could be carried on the deck of a war-ship, the second
for a coast-defense submersible not designed for use
on the high seas, and the third for the type now
known as the fleet submarine. I called this larger
boat a submarine cruiser. The five members of the
Board liked my plans and said frankly that no other
had ever been proposed either at home or abroad
that was in the same class.
"But our hands are tied. We have no money. Con-
gress has specified that the Holland-type boat be built
and we have no authority to do anything on our own.
If you have friends who are willing to risk tibteir
money and will build a boat for us of the coast-
defense type we will at least promise a fair trial. If
it proves to be as good as we think it will be we will
INVENTION OF THE PERISCOPE 151
recommend its purchase. We believe that Congress
will order its purchase on that recommendation/'
By this time the Navy wanted submarines. The
value of the new arm was no longer debatable. Cer-
tain members of Congress were very active in urging
that the Navy be given submarines. There was talk
of building a fleet of fifty, and if I had been a cau-
tious man I would have foreseen that this would
mean plenty of canoodling around the congressional
halls. I did not foresee very well, perhaps, but it soon
became impossible to avoid seeing. In 1900 the
methods of the lobby were neither subtle nor sur-
reptitious and lobbyists were about as clandestine as
A yacht named Josephine lay at anchor in the
Potomac, and if reports could be trusted Josephine
was a pretty loose lady. From the shore one could
see lovely creatures floating about the deck, being
served by Negro servants in white uniforms; terrapin
and champagne and Congressmen seemed to be on
the daily bill-of-fare. The ladies who made a habit of
visiting the Josephine lived at the best hotels in
Washington and some were said to move in the high-
est social circles. Votes for the projects favored by
Rear-Admiral Melville's "treasury-robbers" were se-
cured by a combination of seduction, good fellow-
ship, open purchase, and blackmail. Wives of many a
prairie Congressman cried their eyes out while their
husbands whooped it up on the Josephine.
I say that I should have known better. I should
have known when I was well off and had sense enough
to stick to my knitting. But I knew that Hale and the
members of the Board were honest men and they
wanted to buy an honest boat for the Navy. I told
Melville I did not know where I could get the money
to build a boat. I had no money of my own. I could
not at the moment think of any friend who had any
to spare. But I would try.
"Remember that the Navy hasn't any money and
can't get any and that the lobby is running Con-
gress," Melville would growl. "But for God's sake go
ahead and build us a boat."
Big Trouble Really Begins for the Lake
K EAR-ADMIRAL MELVILLE shouted good-by
to me in his best quarter-deck style when I
left Washington for Bridgeport.
"Mind you, we want a boat that will Do Some-
thing, Damn It! The boats they are trying to make
us take are no better than the pigeons that fly in
I began to learn the true meaning of trouble.
When I tried to get money in the market I got no-
where. Bankers did not want any part or parcel of
what I offered. The Holland patents had been sold
to the Electric Boat Company, and the Holland boats
had been improved, beyond any question. Isaac L.
Rice of New York was the president of the Electric
Boat Company, and he was a pushing, ruthless, hard-
finished millionaire. New Yorkers will remember him
as the builder of the Noiseless House on Riverside
Drive, which was an evidence of his originality, at
least. In those days no one seemed to worry about
Rice was doing his best to sell his boats to the
Navy, via Congress. He was a business man and could
see farther ahead than I could. Money has never
seemed important to me, except when I haven't got
It. It has helped me to put through things in which I
have been interested, and it has given me good food
and nice places in which to live, but the accumula-
tion of money has never been my objective. Rice
could see that if the Navy could be committed to a
definite type of boat the builders would be certain
of what would amount to a monopoly of a profitable
business, provided, of course, that the boat was satis-
factory. He was building with government money on
a contract and he was a smart, a very smart business
man. I was asked to build with my own money and
run a risk of not selling. The only possible backers
to whom I could appeal were the stockholders in the
company that had built the Argonaut. They might
get their money back if they put in more. I formed
die Lake Torpedo Boat Company and asked them to
"I know we have the best boat'* was about all I
They did come in, and I built the Protectory a
small boat designed for coast defense and only sixty-
five feet long, on the city dock back of the gas-house
on the Pequonniac River in Bridgeport. Nothing
happened until I had gotten my money and building
operations were well under way. Then a man calling
himself Hall came to see me and talked vaguely about
investing some money.
"But I don't know much about submarines," he
said. "Tell you what. I have a friend over in Brook-
lyn I'd like to have take a look at this thing."
BIG TROUBLE REALLY BEGINS 155
"Bring him over."
The friend was a sharp-faced, hard-boiled man who
asked scores of questions and had the answers taken
down by a stenographer. That meant nothing to me,
except that I liked his businesslike methods. After a
few days he came back.
"I represent some business men who would like to
buy your interest in this company." He was as hard
and sharp as a knife. "I am not allowed to tell their
I had control of the company and I did not pro-
pose to sell it. My stockholders had put their money
in solely because I asked them to do so. My caller
said nothing about buying their stock. A few days
later one of my directors came to me.
"You wouldn't make a price for your stock the
other day/' he said. "Simon, you're dead wrong.
These people have been talking to me and I know
you can get $300,000 spot cash for your stock. Don't
you be a damn fool, Simon. You sell/'
My director was almost furiously interested in my
welfare. He said that I was an idiot, and that if I did
not sell he was through with me. He stomped through
the yard swearing.
"You've got a chance to make a good bunch of
money, you infernal fool, and you turn it down
I don't want to have anything more to do with you.
If you don't sell they'll drive you out of business/'
"Let 'em drive."
Melville called me to Washington to appear before
the Naval Affairs Committee of the House. The Navy
wanted Congress to give it power to buy the boats
it wanted and Congress was stubbornly holding onto
its authority. I had to hang around Washington for
several weeks before I got a hearing, but they were
not wasted weeks. Uncle Joe Cannon and Oscar
Underwood sat at my table at the hotel, and I almost
forgot to eat in my interest in what they had to say.
At last I was called to the witness-stand and put
through a searching examination.
"Some of the questions you are asking cannot be
answered in the short time available. If you will let
me come back to-morrow I'll have the plans and
I was dreadfully worried about it. I was afraid that
my failure as a witness might have cost the Lake
Torpedo Boat Company the contract we were all
after. It was not that I did not know the answers but
that I had not been able to get them over clearly to
the Congressmen, especially as they were firing new
questions at me all the time. I thought to myself:
"Congressman Lessler asked me more questions than
any other man on the committee. I will go around
and see him and inform him on all these points."
I was as innocent of evil intent as an Easter rabbit,
and I let myself in for the greatest humiliation I have
ever suffered. I still shrink when I think of it. Those
were the days of the goings-on on board the yacht
Josephine, and now and then the papers hinted about
the beautiful blonde and the Senator's curling
whiskers and the bottles of bourbon on the tables
BIG TROUBLE REALLY BEGINS 157
and some of the Congressmen who did not go to the
Josephine were getting very much irritated. So, also,
were some of the Congressmen who did go to the
Congressman Lessler lived at the Hotel Bellevue,
not far from the White House. It was an old-fashioned
place, with a wide stairway leading up from the small
lobby and on one side a plush-stuffed, dim, and air-
less room labeled, "Ladies' Waiting Room."
The clerk asked me to go into this room and wait
while the Negro bellboy found Congressman Lessler
with my card. After a while Lessler came down the
wide stairway with the effect of a big moment on the
Fourth of July. In those days Congressmen dressed
their parts, with wide black hats and embroidered
vests and striped pants, and Lessler was a big man
who could show off his sartorial investiture to good
effect. Three or four steps from the bottom he paused,
put his right hand on his left breast, pushed his hat
back so that light could shine on his fine face, and
asked in tones of thunder:
"Where-are-you Mis ter Lake?"
I came meekly out of the Ladies' Waiting Room,
my papers under my arm, feeling a good deal like a
caterpillar on a garden path. The Congressman looked
down at me from his stance on the stairway. The men
sitting around the lobby watched me. Mr. Lessler
asked in a voice of doom:
"Mis-ter Lake, what can I do for you?"
"I thought I*d bring my drawings around to show
you. I thought you would understand them better. If
we could go somewhere"
"Mr. Lake," said Mr. Lessler, in a voice that rang
like a French horn, "I want you to understand some-
thing about me. Mr. Lake, sir, I am trying to do my
duty honestly. If the Navy Department recommends
that we buy your boat, Mr. Lake, I shall vote for it.
But I want you to understand this, Mr. Lake. You
can't bribe me and you can't get me drunk, and by
God,, Mr. Lake, you can't fool me with women."
It was one of the most successful single acts ever
put on. I have softened Mr. Lessler's words in defer-
ence to the rules of good taste and also because no
printed word could convey the sonorous majesty, the
cold purity, the reverberating defiance of Mr. Less-
ler's pronouncement I sneaked out of the Bellevue
with my papers under my arm. There is a better word
than "sneaked." It is "snuck." I snuck out. That was
the last time I ever tried to perform as a salesman.
From that moment people came to me to buy and I
never went to them. A few days later, by the way,
Lessler charged that Lemuel Eli Quigg of New York
had offered him $5,000 for his vote to give the sub-
marine building contract to the Electric Boat Com-
pany. It was a first-page sensation for days but nothing
much ever came of it.
I did not get the contract I was after, but one day
I had a call from Hiram Stevens Maxim, who was at
that time a partner in Vickers* Sons & Maxim, the
great British armaments firm. Maxim and I talked
the same language of tools and calipers and we got
BIG TROUBLE REALLY BEGINS 159
along bully. A few days later he came to see me again
and we talked submarines. I had no secrets to hide
and he was greatly interested. England had been
dabbling at submarine-building but with no great
conviction, although Maxim made it clear he thought
there would ultimately be a change in policy. After
he returned to London a man w r ho said he represented
Vickers* Sons & Maxim called on me.
"We would like to have you name a price for your
holdings in the Lake Torpedo Boat Company."
"Sorry. No price. I'm going to build a boat for the
Navy Department and I won't sell."
"You're a young man," my caller remarked, benevo-
lently. "You have your way to make in the world.
Of course you have a price. Anything I have is for
sale if I get my price."
"I wouldn't take less than a million dollars" think-
ing I would scare him off. He didn't scare.
"Will you take a million?"
"I can't understand it."
Now things began to happen by cyclones. The boat
was being built at Bridgeport while I was daddling
away in Washington, waiting for the committee to
call me. One day I got a wire: "The Electric Boat
Company has attached everything. They have men in
possession at the dock and they have seized all our
I got back to Bridgeport about midnight, half sick
with worry. I found one deputy sheriff loafing on the
unfinished boat and another asleep on a drawing-
board in the office. Up to this time I had not known
what it was all about. Now I discovered that I had
been sued for half a million dollars on a charge of
libel, the Electric Boat Company being the com-
Some days previously I had prepared a letter to send
out to my stockholders. We needed more money for
construction purposes and I was appealing to them to
stand for another assessment. In my effort to assure
them of ultimate success I used a phrase something
like this: "I have the authority of high officers of the
Navy for the statement that the Lake boat is far su-
perior to any other."
I did not state the names of the officers concerned,
but any one familiar with the situation could have
guessed at them. Mr. Lebbeus B. Miller was then
treasurer of the Lake Torpedo Boat Company and
he objected to the letter when I read it at a directors'
"I wouldn't send that letter out, Simon," said he.
"It isn't wise."
We did not send it out, but some spy turned a copy
of it over to the Electric Boat Company, and they
sued us. Under the laws of Connecticut an attachment
may be secured before a suit is filed or a judgment
declared. Samuel Fessenden was the attorney for the
Electric Boat Company, and promptly tied our prop-
erty up hard and fast. Judge Foster told me there was
but one way in which I could get the company prop-
erty released and go on building the boat. That was to
put up a bond of $1,500,000, as required by law.
BIG TROUBLE REALLY BEGINS l6l
*Tm done. I'm through. I cannot get such a bond."
"Maybe you can. Let's go over and see Miller/*
Lebbeus Miller was one of the most remarkable
men I have ever known. He was Isaac Singer's con-
fidential adviser right up to the day of Singer's death,
and much of the success of the company was due to
him. One day two young mechanics employed in the
Singer plant came to him.
"We have an idea for a water-tube boiler."
"Let's see it." He examined it, liked it, and told
them to go ahead with it. Inventors are apt to have
troubles when they take their ideas to moneyed men,
but Miller protected the two youngsters. They got
a full half-interest in the Babcock and Wilcox Com-
pany, which is to-day one of the great industrial in-
stitutions of the country, while Miller and the other
Singer Company officials who financed it took a
I did not know Mr. Miller very well at that time,
and what slight acquaintance I had was probably due
to the fact that I had employed his son as my attorney
in certain patent matters. I am sure that he did not
have much stock in the Lake Company a few thou-
sand dollars, perhaps, but no more. I had no idea
that he was a wealthy man. Judge Foster and I walked
over to the Singer offices and told our story to Miller.
"Oh," he said, mildly. "Oh. So they're trying to put
us out of business."
He turned to his safe, took out several bundles of
important-looking papers, and stuck them in his coat
"Come on over and well see the bonding com-
Foster told the story while Mr. Miller and I sat
and watched the eyes of the president of the bonding
company. The president said he thought he might
be able to get the bond reduced to 750,000, but he
was not sure. Meanwhile Mr. Miller was willing to
offer security to protect the company.
'That is not necessary," said the president. "Your
word alone is all that we ask.'*
"I'd rather put up the securities/' said Mr. Miller.
He unwrapped the stocks and bonds he took from
his pocket. "You might as well keep them. Just give
me a receipt."
That bond was up for ten years before we could
get it released, and in all that time we could not get
into court for a trial. But we were not worried any
more, for Mr. Miller's action gave us the semblance of
financial stability we may have lacked before, and
no one cared to attack us recklessly.
The new boat worked beautifully after a few cor-
rections had been made in her batteries. Young
Lieutenant John Halligan had been sent by the Navy
Department to watch the Protectors builders' trials
and breaking-in runs, and he warmly approved her
in his report. This, of course, had no bearing on the
final purchase or rejection of the boat, any more than
the laudatory article he wrote for the Naval Institute,
the magazine of the service.
Halligan had recently married a lovely girl. One
day he came to me. "Good-by, Lake. I've just been
BIG TROUBLE REALLY BEGINS l6g
ordered out of the country/' My recollection is that
he was sent to the Argentine. Halligan was too well
disciplined to say that the opposition's lobby had
prevailed on the Department to send away one of our
best friends, but others said it for him. The assign-
ment to the Argentine was cancelled. The Protector
was sent to Newport, where we hoped a Naval Board
would watch her trials. Halligan was also ordered
to Newport. Mrs. Halligan was running from place
to place (as navy wives do, poor girls) to meet her
husband for brief visits. He w r as tremendously pleased
that he would be with her at Newport
"Poor child/* he said. "I've hardly had a chance to
bow to her during the last few months/'
On the dock at Newport he was met by a per-
emptory order directing him to leave at once for
Cuba. He did not even have time to go on shore and
say good-by to Mrs. Halligan. Years later I offered
Halligan $10,000 a year to come with our company,
but he would not:
"I'm in the Navy," he said. "Some day 111 be an
admiral." He was so conscientious that when he was
with us on the Protector during the trial runs he in-
sisted on paying for his meals. I'll venture to say that
under Rear Admiral John Halligan, who died in
1934, no young officer was ever given the heartbreak-
ing treatment he had received at the instigation of
the lobby not if he knew it. He was an honest fight-
Russia Buys the Lake Submarines
I'LL admit it was bad weather when the Naval
Board reached Newport to give the Protector her
trial run. The bay was full of ice and the wind was
high and sailors who were used to sailing on the sea
might well be forgiven for refusing to cruise under
it. The steamer on which the Board sailed for New-
port got stuck in the ice.
Maybe it was a case of bad manners on our part.
We did not so intend it. We only wanted to show the
Board that the Protector could take it. We ran her
out in the bay and in circles about the stuck-fast
steamer and broke through some of the lighter ice.
Then we tied alongside the dock, chesty as pigeons
and sure that we had won our case in advance. The
members of the Board glanced at us out of wind-
swollen eyes when they disembarked. They merely
said, "We will not undertake a trial in this kind of
weather. We have decided to postpone it until
Our hearts dropped. I mean they literally dropped.
We had been so cocksure of winning approval. We
were no longer unsophisticated, after our experiences
in Washington, and we knew that a final desperate
effort was being made to push through an appropria-
RUSSIA BUYS THE LAKE SUBMARINES 165
tion for the exclusive building of the Holland boat.
If the Protector had been given a trial under the
worst conditions that could be imagined and had
passed triumphantly, our cause would have been for-
warded and that of the opposition retarded, for up to
this time the Holland boat had never made a satis-
There was a nigger in the woodpile. We were all
right in deep water, but it seemed we didn't have
a chance in Washington. We had found out how
things were done at the capital, and we would not do
them that way; that is all that can be said about that.
Then we had what seemed to be a streak of fat
along with our streaks of lean. I went to William
Howard Taft, then Secretary of War, and a man im-
patient of anything that savored of skulduggery. The
Army is charged with the duty of defending the coast,
and it did not take anything of an argument to con-
vince Taft that defense by submarine was at least
worth looking into. He named a Board of three
officers to make an investigation. They were Major
Arthur Murray, who had been chief of the Coast
Artillery Corps, and Captains Charles J. Bailey and
Charles F. Parker of the Artillery Corps.
We gave 'em the works.
There was nothing that a submarine could do in
those days that the Protector did not do. The ice was
thick in Narragansett Bay, and we sent the Protector
under it and broke lanes through it. We navigated
along under the ice without difficulty and when we
wanted to come to the surface we simply tilted her
planes and she came up and broke through. We
cooked a meal in her galley and opened the water-
lock; we went through the motions of laying mines
and cutting cables. In those days our motive power
on the surface was gasoline motors, but our ventilat-
ing system was so excellent that we could run
semisubmerged for some time. Ten hours without
discomfort was our record, I believe.
When the Board completed its inquiry the mem-
bers gave our boat a warm indorsement: "A valuable
auxiliary to the fixed mine defense where channels
cannot be mined it will give nearest approach to ab-
solute protection can patrol a mined or unmined
channel invisible to the enemy pick up cables great
superiority in attacking mine fields effective use of
The Board recommended the immediate purchase
of five of the Lake boats, one to be used for experi-
mental work in the Submarine School, and the others
to be assigned to Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay,
San Francisco Harbor, and Puget Sound. These rec-
ommendations were indorsed by Secretary Taft and
were embodied in a bill introduced in the Senate.
I was distinctly on a spot. The Navy did not want
the Army to get the Protector, for the rivalry between
the two services was perhaps even livelier than it is
now. Little more than a distant acquaintance was
professed by the one service for the other in those
days. The unseen influence which had operated to
prevent a purchase of the Protector type by the Navy
was still operating. The spot I was on was not only a
RUSSIA BUYS THE LAKE SUBMARINES 167
spot, but It was a hot one. I was about out of money.
My stockholders could not be appealed to again.
Some of them might have responded, but others could
not have raised another dime.
The Senate discussed the bill for two days.
"I never saw anything like it," Senator Platt of
Connecticut told me later.
Two members of the lower house had been work-
ing openly as lobbyists on the floor of the Senate
during this debate. They ran hotfoot up and down
the aisles, carrying messages from the lobby chiefs in
the cloak-room. They whispered and swore and
pounded desks. So many notes were received and
torn up during this debate by two or three of the
Senators that the floor near their desks was literally
"This is supposed to be a legislative body in which
the members are self-respecting men," Platt added
On the morning of the second day I had despaired
completely. It seemed that no appropriation would
be given the Army for the purchase of our boats and
that the Lake Torpedo Boat Company was finally and
conclusively sunk. Then I had an inspiration. I saw
my friend James L. Norris, who had at one time been
my patent attorney, and put the situation before him.
Norris was a close friend and associate of United
States Senator Gorman of Maryland, who had been
showing signs of friendship for the Electric Boat
l68 SUBMARIN 7 E
"Won't you go and see Gorman?" I asked. "Ask
him to let me talk to him."
"I cannot do that," said Norris, "but 111 give you
a letter." He wrote the letter and I panted off to
Gorman 's office.
"You cannot see the Senator/' his secretary said.
"He is now in the inner office changing his clothes.
He is about to go on the floor to make a speech,"
I've told elsewhere of how men dressed their parts
in those days. One could almost recognize a sea-
captain, Congressman, bartender, gambler, or alder-
man by his clothes. Gorman was following tradition
in making a careful toilet before going on the floor.
I told the secretary that I did not want to intrude
on these rites, but I did want the Senator to read the
letter I had brought from Jim Norris, for I thought
he would be interested. The clerk yielded under pro-
test and presently Gorman's silver tones could be
heard from what would have been a boudoir if it had
been occupied by a lady: "Come in."
He was pulling on his pants when I came through
the door and was too busy to shake hands, but he was
not too busy to shoot questions at me. "And talk fast.
I'm due on the floor."
I gave him both barrels.
"Then 111 see what I can do for you, Mr. Lake."
He marched through the door, majestic in high collar,
black frock-coat, wide black hat, and striped trousers.
This is said in no spirit of levity. Clothes have in-
terested me less than almost anything in life, but I
like to see men in high position look as though they
RUSSIA BUYS THE LAKE SUBMARINES 169
really amounted to something, and not like any of the
first forty men one sees on the street. On my way to
the Senate gallery to listen to the debate, I met a
"You're out of luck, Simon. Gorman's going to
make a speech for the Electric Boat Company and
I was pretty low by the time I had found myself a
seat and settled down to watch what might be the
Lake Boat Company's last moment on earth. Gorman
had intended to speak for the Electric Boat Company,
but Nonis' letter plus the fervor with which I had
put the other side of the case before him had changed
his mind. It is possible that he had never been very
firmly fixed in his position. He made a straight, work-
manlike, well-fortified speech in favor of the Pro-
tector, and the Senate passed the bill. But it was only
half-way through Congress, for it had now to be sent
to the House and the House had other ideas. Finally
the conflicting bills were sent to a conference com-
That is where the dirty work is done in Congress.
Each House may pass a bill which neither has any
intention of making into a law and both are dyna-
mited in the conference committee. A friend sug-
gested that I ask for a hearing by the conference
committee and I went to the room in which it was
to be held so that I might mull over the points I
hoped to make. No one was in sight when I entered,
but presently I heard men in high argument in the
"A lot of Goddamned thieves," one man shouted.
I recognized the voice as that of a retired general who
was a member of the House Naval Committee. "You
men are being paid to keep us from buying the Lake
boat. You know Goddamned well it is the best boat."
Some one yelled back a denial. I recognized the
voice as that of a manufacturer from an inland
city, who had been in Congress several years: "No
one bought us. But we'll not vote to buy the Lake
The disputants became more profane and definite
in their charges. I thought it would be a pretty good
thing if Simon Lake got out of there, for the Congress-
men might not be pleased if they knew the man who
had most interest in the Lake boat had heard their
quarrel. The following day I met the manufacturer
on the street and he came up to me with hand out-
'Tm terribly sorry, Mr. Lake, but the House con-
ferees could not support the measure to buy your
boat. I have been your friend in this throughout."
The only reply I could have made was to call the
man a liar and I did not want to do that. So I said
nothing. It is still a pleasure to recall that he was
arrested some time later for an offense against the gov-
ernmentsmuggling, I think and was punished. But
the harm had been done. Both the Army and Navy
wanted my boat, as shown by their formal actions, but
Congress would not buy. It had cost us a lot of money,
my stockholders could not put up any more money,
the Lake Torpedo Boat Company was in debt, and
RUSSIA BUYS THE LAKE SUBMARINES 1^1
there is nothing as completely unsalable as a military
submarine which no government wants. Only a faint
glimmer of hope could be seen.
The war between Russia and Japan was under way.
Three Japanese officers had been on board the Pro-
tector, and while they had not said a word it seemed
to me that they had been impressed. The Russian
military attache in Washington had been quite frank
in his expression of admiration. "If the United States
Government does not buy her I know one govern-
ment that will."
But that had no real weight with me. It was pleas-
ing to know that two powers at war were interested,
but what the Lake Torpedo Boat Company needed
was money. The Mitsui Company of Japan I think
it was the Mitsui Company had talked vaguely of
building submarines under a royalty agreement. Then
I overheard a conversation which was to have a
definite influence, I think, on the military history of
the world* I was walking through the corridor joining
the House and Senate, accompanied by E. J. Hill, at
that time a Congressman from Connecticut, who had
warmly supported the Lake boat in the congressional
debates, when we met Senator Albert J. Beveridge.
Both Hill and Beveridge had recently returned from
voyages around the world. Both said they had en-
"Where do your sympathies lie in the present con-
flict?" asked Hill.
"I favor Russia/' said Beveridge, "and for these
reasons. It is a white nation against a yellow one, a
Christian nation against pagans, and an honest peo-
ple against a lot of damned crooks."
"I feel the same way," said Hill.
I had had no feeling of partisanship. When I had
been asked by a man representing the Japanese Gov-
ernment if I would consider a sale to Japan, since my
chances of selling to my own people seemed to have
gone glimmering, I said that I would.
"Give me a price on two boats, then. The Protector
Is now in commission and you will build another as
rapidly as possible."
"Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars each/*
"111 let you know."
I have never ceased to wonder at the fact that in
times of war the belligerent parties seem to know all
about each other's plans. The Japanese knew the Rus-
sian attache had had trial runs in the Protector, and
vice versa, although we had done our best to keep
these experiences secret. It was the next day after
I had put a price on two boats to Japan that I got a
telegram from Charles R. Flint of New York. Flint
had been called the Father of Trusts by the news-
papers, he had been a diplomat, a banker, a promoter,
and above all a dealer in munitions.
"Will you take breakfast with me to-morrow at my
house on Thirty-sixth Street, New York City?"
I did not know much about Flint, but I did know
that this was the equivalent of a royal command-
more than a royal command would be nowadays,
when kings and princes are going two-a-penny. The
RUSSIA BUYS THE LAKE SUBMARINES
next morning I rang Flint's doorbell and a servant
took me to him. He was a hard, likable, businesslike,
straightforward man. Many people disliked him be-
cause he was sometimes brusque and rather overpow-
ering. I found him easy to get along with, for he put
his cards on the table.
"The Russian military attach^ will take breakfast
with us," he said.
That began to sound like money. I had taken a
neutral stand as between the Russian and Japanese
in their war, because I had something to sell, and be-
cause it has never seemed to me to be good American
citizenship to sound off about other people's troubles.
But inside of me I was pro-Russian, beyond a doubt.
That talk between Hill and Beveridge had subcon-
sciously influenced me. The three of us talked
submarine through the breakfast. I told them what
I could do with the Protector and why it was possible
to do it and how I found out how to do it and about
my series of trials-and-errors. I was not trying to sell
anything to either of them, but I was having a bully
good time, talking about the thing that was my life.
"You have an appointment to meet a Japanese
officer at four o'clock to-day at the Waldorf, haven't
you? He will have authority to close with you for two
Every time anything like that happens I am as
astonished as though it were the first time. I have
never known how it is that the agents of one country
can find out all about the plans of the agents of an-
other country during a war. But they do find out. I
am sure my Japanese friend had guarded himself, and
I know that I did not say a word to any one, and that
I was the only man in the Lake crowd that knew any-
thing about that appointment. But there you are.
Flint knew where and when we were to meet. He
knew that I was not committed to the Japanese in
any way. I had made them a price, but I was not
bound to sell to them.
"We'll have to work fast," said 'Flint. "I have an
agent in Russia and if we get a move on we will sell
to Russia by four o'clock. If we fail you can still
have time to see your Japanese."
Hart O. Berg was Flint's man in Russia and he
knew his way about. Before noon we had closed a
deal by cable, by which I was to deliver the Protector
to Russia for 250,000, all expenses to be paid by the
buyer, and 125,000 cash to be paid to me in advance.
If the Protector made good on her trials I was to be
given a contract to build five more boats in Russia
for $250,000 each. I was as happy as a boy with a new
gun. But Flint was first of all a merchant, and he did
not propose to lose a possible customer.
"Never leave any sore spots behind," he said. "If
we left that Japanese captain to sit in his room think-
ing bad thoughts about you we might find we had
made trouble for ourselves. Have you got a visiting-
In those days I still carried cards. Flint turned the
corner down and gave it to his secretary.
RUSSIA BUYS THE LAKE SUBMARINES 175
"Go over to the Waldorf," he said, "and make cer-
tain that the Japanese is not in his room. Then stick
this card under the door. He will think it is his hard
luck that he missed you."
So I was embarked on my Russian adventure.
Smuggling the Lake Boat Across the Sea
HEAVEN had poured its richest blessings on me,
I thought. I had actually sold the Protector,
after having tried ineffectually to get my own people
interested in her. I had a contract to build five other
submarines if the Protector lived up to my promises,
and I knew it would, and I had $125,000 in my pocket,
or in the company's pocket, which was almost as good.
Just a few days before the company was broke, I was
out of money, and nothing could be seen ahead ex-
cept trouble. J. P. Morgan and Company gave the
money when I asked for it, and I walked on air. After
a day or two of that I came back to the brickwork.
"Russia will pay the bills/' said Flint, "but you'll
have to work out a plan for delivering your sub-
marine. It's contraband of war, you know, and even
if it were as legal as peanuts it is not invisible, and
the Japanese will try to interfere with you."
He made no suggestions. No doubt he thought he
had done his share when he made the sale for me, and
I felt that he sat back in his chair and watched my
flurries with an amused grin inside of him. The vice-
president of my company was Foster M. Voorhees, of
New Jersey, and his close friend was Benjamin F.
Tracy, who had been Secretary of War. They told me
SMUGGLING LAKE BOAT ACROSS SEA
that while the shipment of a completed submarine
would be forbidden it might be possible to knock it
down and ship it piecemeal, thus escaping the pro-
hibition of the law. I had been wanting to make some
changes in the Protector's batteries, and this seemed to
be a good time to do it. I sent the batteries back to
the makers for remodeling and so relieved the minds
of any spies who might be watching. Then I began
to scheme a way to get the hulk out of the country and
on the seas.
Spies and reporters, and I am not certain which
were the more intelligent and persistent, dogged every
step of any one connected with my company. This
was not to be objected to, for news-gathering is a
reputable profession, and a nation at war has every
right to get information about the enemy's move-
ments. Even if I had objected I could not have inter-
fered with them. But they were a devilish nuisance*
The reporters put me to bed every night and got me
up every morning and strange men leaned against
every lamp-post and sat on every fence. The funny
part was that the spies were both Japanese and Rus-
sian. Flint was an old hand at the game, and he had
impressed on me that no one should be told about
the deal with Russia.
"You can't trust any one. Three of us know now
and that's two too many. If you so much as look
friendly at one of these Russian spies he'll trade with
the Japanese and the Japanese will do the same thing.
There's no loyalty in *em."
Yet any one could guess that there was something in
the wind and every one who was at all interested had
guessed it. I was as much on show as though I were
in a store window. I had failed in my effort to sell to
the United States Government. Every one knew that,
and yet I suddenly had money, the Lake Company
was solvent again, and the workmen had been paid.
The plain inference was that I had sold either to
the Russians or the Japanese, for they were the only
nations in the market for submarine goods. If that
fact were publicly admitted the losing crowd would
certainly interfere with any attempt to send the Pro-
tector out of the country. One night 'Gene Adams,
my brother-in-law, who knew that something was in
the wind but did not know what it was, for I had
not even told my wife, found himself followed by two
sets of watchers.
"It was a black, wet, blowy night," 'Gene told me
later. "I got into New York and began dodging them.
The last I could see of them the two sets seemed to be
sneaking around after each other."
I finally hit on a plan and enlisted Flint's aid in
carrying it out. He chartered the steamer Fortuna, to
carry a load of coal from Norfolk to Russia. At New-
port I arranged to have timbers cut for a cradle to
be set up on the Fortune? s deck, but told no one that
the Protector was to be cradled. All our papers were
in order, our names did not appear anywhere, Flint
and I ostentatiously busied ourselves with other
matters, and the spies and reporters chased other men
who seemed to be given to suspicious movements.
On the appointed day the Fortuna steamed out of
SMUGGLING LAKE BOAT ACROSS SEA 1>JQ
Norfolk Harbor with four thousand tons o coal on
board, and made for Newport. There the cradle tim-
bers and a gang of ship's carpenters were rushed on
board, and the cradle was thrown together. We gave
the carpenters some kind of a satisfying explanation,
but did not attempt to swear them to secrecy. An oath
of silence would have opened every carpenter's mouth
like a satchel.
I went on board the Protector at Bridgeport, with
reporters at my heels. They wanted to know what I
proposed to do and I told them, as I told my own
men, that I intended to give the boat a run under
engine power only. It was so evident that a submarine
without batteries would be useless from a military
point of view that the reporters muffed the story.
They talked to my men and satisfied themselves that
nothing of importance was being planned, for the
men had been told to take clothes for a week's cruise.
"I have some things in mind to try out," I told
them, "and you don't know what might happen. We
might be out for a week."
I had agreed to meet the Fortuna in Prince's Bay,
near Sandy Hook, on a Saturday midnight. That time
was selected because on Saturday the government
offices are closed, most government officers are getting
acquainted with their families, judges are week-
ending in the country, lawyers are hard to find, and
even reporters relax a little of their hellish energies
and, with the Sunday paper out of the way, settle
down to play poker in the city room. To make mat-
ters better, a thick fog dropped over Bridgeport Har-
bor, and I doubt i any one saw the Protector get
away from her berth. We headed right across the
Sound and I laid her up in a spot that was almost
never visited and waited for night to come. No one
could have seen us, for only a little of the conning-
tower was showing above the water. When it came
dark we started for Prince's Bay,
There the big wrecking barge Monarchy owned by
Merritt and Chapman, was lying at anchor waiting for
us. Her job was to derrick the Protector into the
cradle on the Fortunes deck. Merritt and Chapman
knew nothing of what was going on, for they had en-
gaged simply to lift a one hundred and thirty-ton boat
to the deck of a steamer. I suppose I was somewhat
oppressed by a feeling of guilt, even if reason told me
I was breaking no law, for that big barge looked to
me like a blatant advertisement of our affairs. We laid
away from the Monarch while we waited for the ar-
rival of the Fortuna, expecting at every minute that
some one would come along and say, "Well, well,
boys, and so you're going to take the Protector to
And the Fortuna did not come. Nowadays the two-
way radio would have cleared everything up in a
jiffy, but then the only thing we could do was to sit
on our tails and wait for something to happen. We
were afraid the Fortuna had been held up by the
Government and the Protector might be seized and
we probably confessed to ourselves those of us who
had been let into the secret that merely to take the
batteries out of the boat was a pretty thin foundation
SMUGGLING LAKE BOAT ACROSS SEA l8l
for a claim that she was not contraband. I sat in the
Protectors conning-tower for hours, my head sticking
out like a turtle, unable to break down and tell all
even to the trusted men who made up my crew.
At eight o'clock my heart began to thump. The
slow beat of the Fortunes engines could be heard as
she shoved into Prince's Bay. Some miserable little
thing had detained her, and no one except us worried
about it. No one on the Fortuna thought that a few
hours, more or less, would make any difference, for no
one on board knew what we were planning to do. It
had been a perfectly kept secret.
When the Fortuna had finally made fast to the
Monarch (and to me, peeping out of the conning-
tower across the bay, that operation seemed to take
forever), I had the engines started and we moved
toward the two steamers. By this time the waters
were glittering in the morning sun, small boats could
be seen everywhere, all the fishermen along the coast
were getting out their tackle, and our chances for
escaping observation seemed to have dropped to about
one million to one. But luck was with us. Long be-
fore the sharpest-eyed fisherman on the bay could
have seen our conning-tower a rain began to fall and
before long it turned into the hardest downpour I
have ever known. It rained not by buckets but by
tubs. I could not see the ship's length, and when we
finally inched our way alongside the Fortuna and the
Monarch had dropped her chains over the Protectors
hull and set her big derrick groaning I felt as though
my life had been shortened by years. Inside of an
hour the Protector was safe in her cradle, and the
Fortuna was on her way.
My men had guessed, of course, that something was
up, but they did not know precisely what it was. Be-
fore the Fortuna steamed out of the bay I called them
together. Even yet I could not be precise in giving
them information, for I could not tell what might
"The Protector has been sold and is on the way to
be delivered to the new owner. I cannot tell you who
bought her or where we are bound for, but I would
like to have some of you go with me. Who will volun-
I am proud to this day that every one of them de-
clared to go along. Candor compels me to admit that
I do not know just what a man could have done who
refused to volunteer. He might have had to go just
the same, for we could not have permitted him to go
back to the shore. The adventure had some of the
aspects of a kidnapping, but not one of the men ever
regretted it. Some of them did not get back home for
Meanwhile, the reporters who had been assigned to
watch the Protector, and the Japanese and Russian
spies who had been told off to follow me, had learned
that the boat had disappeared. Every newspaper had
a first page head-line: "What has become of the
We were not beaten down by the tremendous vol-
ume of news then as we are now. The flight of the
Protector became a world sensation. The first news
SMUGGLING LAKE BOAT ACROSS SEA 183
of her was brought to New York by the captain of the
steamer Princess Gecile, who reported that die For-
tuna had not replied to his signals, and that he had
observed a bulky object on her foredeck shrouded in
tarpaulins, which he thought might be the missing
submarine. I had returned to Bridgeport from
Prince's Bay in order to avert suspicion, if possible,
and stayed there for several days. Then I shipped for
Cherbourg on the old Kaiser Wilhelm II, known to
sailors as Billy the Roller, intending to go to Russia
overland from France.
Landing at Cherbourg I went on to Paris to talk
with the Russian ambassador; at his suggestion I
changed my name to Elwood Simon and was given a
Russian passport. The Simon was kept In for con-
venience' sake, the idea being that although I could
not speak a foreign language I could at least recognize
my own name in one. But this idea was sour, for
Simon became See-mon on the foreign tongues, and
in Russia I was always addressed as Gospodin, That's
the Russian way of saying "Mister" with a flourish.
I was instructed to go straight to Libau to meet my
boat. The Fortuna had been having its own adven-
tures. On the voyage through the Baltic the coverings
had been taken off the Protectory so that my men
could do some work on her, and she stood revealed as
a submarine. A Russian destroyer on patrol sighted
the Fortuna with her incriminating deckload and one
of the officers recognized the Protector from a picture
he had seen. The Fortuna steamed stolidly on when
the destroyer hailed her, and the little war-ship
wheeled away at full speed to get instructions. Pres-
ently she returned with another destroyer and a gun-
boat as reinforcements and this time a solid shot was
put across her bow. When she again refused to stop
another shot was put dangerously near. The For-
tuna's engines were halted and the Russians boarded:
"Where are you going?"
"We don't believe you. We think this submarine is
being shipped to Japan. In any case you're going to
Kronstadt and we'll escort you in and don't try any-
thing on the way."
A prize crew was put on board and, with the de-
stroyers and a gunboat on her flanks, she moved in to
Kronstadt. On arriving at Libau I learned these
things, and also that the Fortuna was to be taken to
the military port of St. Petersburg, or Leningrad as
it is now named. So I went on to Kronstadt and on
board the Fortuna to enjoy a formal luncheon in our
honor. As we entered Kronstadt Harbor men lined
the narrow decks of the Russian-built submarine Del-
fino and saluted us. Among the guests at the luncheon
were Captain Becklemechief and Chief Constructor
Bubonoff, the joint designers of the Delfino.
"We are training a crew on her," they told us
Captain Becklemechief and Constructor Bubonoff
both spoke English as do all Russian Naval officers,
"and as rapidly as they are fit we will transfer them to
the Protector for further teaching. By the time you
have your other boats in the water we will be ready
to take them over."
SMUGGLING LAKE BOAT ACROSS SEA 185
That -was a brisk way of doing business and I con-
gratulated them. While we were chatting a telegram
was handed to Becklemechief which seemed to give
him some concern. After a moment he handed it to
Bubonoff and the man turned pale. One of them said
something to me in Russian.
"Sorry, but I don't understand."
The interpreter spoke up: "These gentlemen have
just received the news that this morning the Delftno
sank at her dock with thirty-five men on board."
Gospodin Simon Delivers the Goods
OSPODIN SIMON felt something clutch at his
YJT bowels when he heard of the tragedy of the
Delfino. I am too old now to bother with any pre-
tense. The first thought in my mind was a purely
selfish one, for I did not know how it might affect my
prospects. Here I was in Russia, with no word of the
language, no intercessor except Hart O. Berg, Flint's
partner, with an American submarine sold to the
Government, and exposed to the usual and common-
place jealousies and interferences the foreigner must
always encounter when he does business. These
thoughts scampered through my mind in the split
part of a second, and then I reverted to the profes-
sional type: "What happened?"
"We'll find out," said Bubonoff.
It is not that we were heartless. The reported loss
of thirty-five good men horrified us, but after all we
were submarine engineers and it was of vital im-
portance to all of us that we discover what had gone
wrong. I should say at this point that the loss of the
Delfino never affected my relations with the Russians
in the slightest. They impressed me as a lovable,
kindly, and fair-minded people, but with a broad
streak of childlikeness running through their natures.
GOSPODIN SIMON DELIVERS GOODS 187
I do not mean childishness but child! ikeness. They
might act on the impulse of the moment, but they
were always generous and kind. I'll have more to say
of them later.
At the dock by the side of which the Delfino had
sunk we learned that the loss of life was not as great
as we had feared. Twenty-three men had been
drowned; three of the men who escaped later be-
came members of our crew on the Protector. The
Delfino was lost because of the peculiarly Russian
trait of failing to think ahead. It seemed to me that as
a people they are inclined to leap before they look.
The regular crew of the Delfino consisted of eight
men. Her buoyancy tanks were necessarily filled with
water almost to the limit in order to submerge with
only eight on board. On this occasion her flotation
power was reduced by the addition of twenty-seven
men to the load, but no one thought of that when
the water was let in. The conning-tower hatch was
operated by a nut-and-screw mechanism, and when
the officer in charge ordered her submerged the water
was let into the tanks coincidentally with the closing
of the hatch. A passing steamer threw up a wave
which splashed into the partly open hatch and one of
the untrained men lost his head:
"Save yourselves!" he cried. He got his head and
one shoulder out of the hatch and then stuck fast.
The man operating the nut-and-screw mechanism
could neither close the top nor open it far enough
for the man to escape, and the water poured in. One
man gave a remarkable exhibition of courage and
cool-headedness. In some way he managed either to
pull in or thrust out the man who had been stuck in
the hatch and even as the boat sank he opened the
hatch cover. The confined air rushed out with a roar
as the water-pressure increased and swept twelve men
Captain Tillian, who afterward joined the Pro-
tector's crew, told me that the only thing he could
remember was that he was standing in the after run-
way, up to his waist in water, when a sailor spoke to
him. "Good-by, Captain. Will you let me kiss you
He remembered the feeling of the man's lips against
his cheek and nothing more. He was carried the
length of the ship by the force of the compressed air
and the next thing he knew he was returning to con-
sciousness on the dock.
The Fortuna with the Protector aboard had been
laid alongside a dock in Kronstadt and a big derrick
was brought up to lift the submarine into the water.
The man in charge was stubbornly opinionated, and
seemed to resent the intrusion of a foreigner into his
affairs. He refused to listen to me when I objected
that the chains he had put around the Protectors
body were too light for the lift. The boat weighed
one hundred and thirty tons, even without her bat-
"They will break and the Protector will crash
through the Fortunes deck."
One of his superior officers came up and learned
GOSPOBIN SIMON DELIVERS GOODS 189
that we were in dispute. He did not interfere, for it is
a dangerous thing to overrule one of your own men
on the word of a stranger. But I turned to the inter-
preter: "If he's bound to use those light chains, tell
him for God's sake to go slow and easy."
Power was turned on and the Protector began to
sway up. She was perhaps two feet above the deck
when the chains parted and she crashed back into her
cradle. No harm had been done, but the command-
ing officer told that derrick boss plenty.
"After this do what Gospodin Simon orders."
Thereafter I was obeyed to the letter at all times,
allowance being made for human frailty. Discipline
was rigid in Russia in those daysa trifle inhuman,
perhaps. On one occasion I was making a submergence
test and as the weather was bad I arranged to go out
to sea, where we could get enough depth for safe
maneuvering. As a matter of caution I asked that a
sea-going tender be sent with us. A storm blew up
and I could see through the periscope that the tender
was making very heavy weather. Then we submerged
and stayed under about fifteen minutes. I was so much
interested that we made several more descents and I
forgot all about the tender.
At last we had had enough of it, especially as our
batteries were about discharged, and headed for the
home port. The first of the winter's storms was in
full blast and a day or two later the port was closed to
navigation. We expected the tender to lead us into
the harbor, but nothing could be seen of her, and we
had to feel our way in by using the lead. We did
sight one of the light-ships at the entrance of the har-
bor for a moment, and then the sleet and rain cut
off our view. When we at last made fast to the dock
we found the port commandant and other officers
waiting for us in high excitement.
"The officers and men of the tender which should
have escorted you are under arrest, Gospodin. If you
wish I shall have them sent to Siberia."
"Please do nothing of the kind. Release them with
The explanation was that the tender had lost sight
of us because of our submerging and the storm had
grown so furious that the captain feared he would
lose his vessel if he did not run for port. As it was she
lost everything loose on board. I did not blame him
and ultimately got the port commandant to accept
my view, but for a time he was adamant. The tender,
he said, had been sent to escort us, and should have
stayed with us no matter what the weather might be.
That kind of discipline makes for absolute obedience,
but it does not encourage men to think for them-
Once a stupid man in charge of gasoline-loading
operations overflowed a tank in one of the Russian
submarines. This was observed by a muzhik at work
sweeping the dock. An explosion took place, several
men were badly burned, and an inquiry was ordered.
One witness was the muzhik. He said that he had no-
ticed that the gasoline tank had been overflowed and
that loose gasoline was in the body of the boat, and
GOSPODIN SIMON DELIVERS GOODS
admitted that he knew that a spark might cause an
"Then why didn't you give the alarm?"
"It was none of my business. I have been taught
to mind my business. That is to sweep the dock."
I almost lost my life, the lives of several high-
ranking officers, and the Protector because Russian
discipline was in use only in the ranks. Soldiers and
sailors could be made into automatons but officers
were permitted to make fools of themselves. One of
the trial conditions was that we should run the Pro-
lector under her engine with her decks submerged
and her conning-tower awash. We were in the Gulf of
Finland, and I was standing in the open hatch with
the Protector running under these conditions. She was
ready for instant submergence, and the conning-tower
-was held above the water by setting her hydroplanes
down. By closing the hatch cover and setting the
planes the vessel could be submerged in fifteen sec-
onds. I had so much confidence in her stability that
I had no hesitation in leaving the depth-controlling
levers for considerable periods. We ran through a
school of small fish, and I indicated to the officer at
my side that I was going out on the conning-tower to
look at them.
There were about three feet of water over her decks
and the top of the tower was not more than eighteen
inches from the surface. All at once the boat began
to go down. I made one frantic leap into the conning-
tower, pulling the hatch cover after me, and as I
landed on my feet I heard the water ripple over the
top of the tower. I I had been a single second slower
the water would have poured in and the craft would
have gone down with all hands. I had not had time
to get my breath when I saw that the senior officer
was shaking with laughter. He was a very tall man, so
that he had to bow his shoulders to stand in the
"A good joke on~Gospodin Simon/' he gasped,
wiping the tears out of his eyes.
He had set the hydroplanes a little lower in order
to frighten me, in which effort his success was com-
plete. I had always said that neither a submarine nor
anything else in this world can be made safe against
carelessness or folly, and this confirmed me in the
belief. Forever after, I took care that all controls
should be guarded against practical jokers and other
congenital idiots. Nothing could be done about it
with this highly placed jackass who almost drowned
us in the Gulf of Finland, although if he had been a
muzhik or a sailor he could, and almost certainly
would, have been sent to the salt-mines. As I was en-
gaged in selling my boats I could not even swear at
him. All I could do was to wipe my forehead and
smile a sickly smile. He later became a high admiral
of the fleet.
The batteries which I had sent to the factory before
sailing from Prince's Bay managed to get thoroughly
lost and it was three months before we could find
them. At last they came and I was ready for my
official trial. The Protector had as competitors a Hol-
land boat, the Fulton, from the United States, and a
GOSPODIN SIMON DELIVERS GOODS
French and a German submarine, the latter from the
Krupp shops. The Holland boat refused to run after
trials at the place selected, the Krupp boat -would not
function, and the French boat failed. The Protector
made good, and the Russian Government confirmed
the order for five more like her. It was during this
series of trials that I ran into the military harbor of
Libau on wheels, as I have previously told. After this
operation one of the senior officers of the Russian
Navy said, "Gospodin Simon, if I were in command
of a fleet and knew that you and your boat were in
the vicinity I would up-hook and steam away ve-ry
Course of Naval History Almost Changed
rr^HE naval history of the world might have been
JL changed by me while I was in Russia. I say
"might have been." There is at least the probability
that it would have been.
It was not changed because the Lake family was
Mrs. Lake and I had behind us generations of
God-fearing and law-abiding people. We had with us
our three children. Before our eyes was the bad
example of the most profligate society in recent his-
tory. I love the Russians for many things, but those
we were able to observe were as lacking in morals
as so many mice. They were not a wicked people, nor
mean nor vicious. They were simply unmoral from
the point of view of the New Jersey Lakes.
Grand dukes did not hesitate to flaunt their mis-
tresses before the public. So far as we could observe
the public did not care. They appeared with their
women at the theaters as nonchalantly as though
they were wives. The public seemed to feel that four
grand dukes plus four loose women in Worth gowns
and Carrier tiaras made a box at the opera practically
perfect. If there was a hint of criticism I never caught
it. I remember that one night at the opera, in what
NAVAL HISTORY ALMOST CHANGED 195
-was then St. Petersburg, a grand duke, a cousin of
the Czar, and his belle amie were having a dreadful
racket in the lobby. My companion was an American
correspondent who understood Russian.
"And was she giving him hell!" said he.
The regulations governing the marriage of officers
of the Army and Navy were very strict, and in con-
sequence many officers entered into irregular al-
liances. These were accepted in the most matter-of-
fact way by all concerned. On one occasion I called
at the home of an officer of high naval rank.
"I want you to see my children," he said proudly.
Three of the finest youngsters I've ever seen were
called in. They were evidently as fond of their father
as he was of them. Later in the evening I met their
mother, a handsome, intelligent woman, and in some
way we got to discussing the tie that bound them.
"He wants me to marry him/' she said, "for he is
in a position now to defy the restrictions. But of
course I will not."
The romantic American thought that she was a
woman who would sacrifice herself rather than run
the risk of injuring the man she loved, but that was
not the idea at all. When I finally got my quaint
thought over to her she was rather angry.
"If I married him I would put myself in his power.
Why, do you know that if I were his wife he could
do anything he wished put me in the kitchen if he
wanted to and bring another woman here to take
my place. Of course I will not marry him."
These deflections from the course of strict morality
were not confined to the higher nobility, but seemed
to be characteristic of the Russian scene. I often
found advertisements in the newspapers in which
fathers offered to sell their beautiful daughters to
the highest bidder. The proffer was not stated in
precisely those terms, but it came to the same thing:
"Beautiful girl, just turned eighteen, well educated,
sings divinely, a graceful dancer, intelligent, good-
tempered, entertaining. For particulars address So-
On one occasion I was visiting at the home of
Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovitch, with whom I
was talking business. He stepped to the window and
waved to some one in the house on the other side of
the little paved area.
"Come over here, Gospodin Simon, and see the
three daughters of the Czar."
This was at Peterhof, where the Czar had his sum-
mer home. Directly the Grand Duke and the children
began to throw kisses at each other. He said to me,
"Throw a kiss at them/'
I did so and they responded with great glee, just
as any other little girls might do. They seemed to
range in age from about six to twelve years. At last
an old lady came into their room, saw what was going
on, and snapped down the window-shade. I said to
myself, "You poor kids."
Even to my unaccustomed eye there were indica-
tions of unrest in Russia, but if some one had told
me that the three little girls to whom I had been
throwing kisses would be murdered in a cellar with
NAVAL HISTORY ALMOST CHANGED 197
their father the Czar and their brother the heir ap-
parent to the crown I would have thought him mad.
What we of Puritanical descent consider unmoral
not to put too fine a point on it is often condoned
in Europe for reasons of state or the maintenance of
estates, and in the higher social circles state mar-
riages are sometimes forced on the parties to the con-
tract. The natural consequence is that they some-
times seek more congenial companionship.
I spent seven months in Russia on my first trip,
and when I returned I wanted Mrs. Lake to accom-
pany me. She did not want to leave our children but
a translation of some of the advertisements I had of
beautiful and talented girls for sale changed her
mind. I told her among other things of a conversation
with a petty officer on board the Protector.
"Gospodin," said he, "I have a very lovely wife.
She is not only beautiful, but she has a sweet temper
and is talented. I would like to sell her to you, Gos-
podin, so that you can take her to America with
"Only fifteen rubles, Gospodin." That was, at that
time, about seven and a half dollars. "Surely that's
cheap enough, Gospodin. You could not get another
girl like her for so little money."
"Don't you love her?"
"As my life, Gospodin. With all my heart. She is
the treasure of my soul."
The puritan in Simon Lake began to stir himself.
No doubt I glared at him. Here, I said to myself,
is a contemptible dog who would sell his wife for a
little drink money. But I was to take a different view
before the talk was finished, and I think that the
reader will agree that in the seaman's offer to sell
his wife a clue is to be found to the reasons why a
blood torrent swept through Russia not many years
"I love her so dearly, Gospodin, that I could die
for her. But I think that you are a kind man, and if
you buy her and take her with you to America she
will be safe and happy there. When I have finished
my three years in the Navy perhaps I can get away
to America and maybe you will sell her back to me."
When I told Mrs. Lake this story she decided to
pack her trunks and go with me to Russia.
We built the five submarines of the Protector type
and several others of the large cruising type for the
Russians during the war with Japan, although the
Protector was the only one to be delivered in time
to be of actual service. She was stationed in the har-
bor at Vladivostok and it was said at the time that
only her presence kept the Japanese from an attack.
After the war I was informed that the Russians pro-
posed to scrap their entire fleet of surface vessels and
build a defensive navy consisting entirely of subma-
"We will turn over to you our new ship-building
plant at Reval," (now Talinn) said an official spokes-
man, "furnish you a working capital of fifty million
rubles, and guarantee you a handsome profit on a
NAVAL HISTORY ALMOST CHANGED 199
The explanation is not only that they were satis-
fied with the performance of our submarines, but
that the Russians are not a warlike people. The war
with Japan had been intensely unpopular. The story
was widely believed, and may have been true, that
it was brought about through the machinations of
the mistress of one of the grand dukes, because her
man was in a position to make enormous graft by
manipulating war orders. The fall of Mukden was
hailed by a great popular demonstration. In the re-
bound from the war the Russians believed, and I be-
lieved with them, that a submarine navy could make
their ports impregnable. Their only thought was to
make certain of their defense. A war of aggression
was not even conceivable to them.
Suppose I had accepted their offer?
The submarine weapon was then in its infancy.
The Lake boats were years in advance of the rest
of the world. With a fine, up-to-date, ship-building
plant at my disposition, freedom to go ahead and
experiment at will, and with all the money in the
world at my disposal, after a manner of speaking, the
Russian submarine navy could have been made into
an unbeatable arm before any other nation had even
awakened to what was going on. No surface fleet will
ever dare meet a submarine fleet of the same relative
size, cost and man-power being considered. This is a
fact which must be self-evident.
A sufficiently large charge of high explosive det-
onated under the keel of even the greatest battle-
ship will break its back. There is no reasonable limit
to the size of such a charge. A battleship is helpless
to evade a completely modern submarine, because a
submarine can be built which will move submerged
without making any noise whatever to be picked up
by the ship's hearing devices. The battleship would
have but two chances of safety. One would be to hide
in mined and netted harbors, as the fleets did during
the World War, and so become merely a houseboat
for handsome admirals to live on. Or else such a ship
must be built so solidly of steel that she could be no
more successfully navigated than a flat-iron. But we
did not build a submarine navy for the Russians.
The Lakes had reached the point of rebelling
against the simple immoralities of their very pleasant
hosts. They had three children to think about. The
state of Connecticut may be a trifle short on palaces,
caviar, and champagne, and the grand dukes are apt
to be doormen at restaurants, but it is a good deal
better place in which to bring up children. We de-
cided to go home by way of Berlin. Thanks to the
success of the Lake boats in Russia I had been able
to build up an European organization, and in the
six or seven years I spent on the continent we pretty
well established ourselves in Russia, Germany, Italy,
Austria, and England. After I opened our plant in
the United States the round trip of inspection in-
volved traveling about seventeen thousand miles.
I am somewhat puzzled by the reports of the ap-
parent ineptitude of the Russians in dealing with
mechanical matters. I found them excellent me-
chanics, for the most part, and in some things they
NAVAL HISTORY ALMOST CHANGED 2O1
were way ahead of us. Once I needed to have a
bronze sleeve made to fit over a reversible propeller.
This reversible propeller was one of my patents, and
I was the first to make use of it on a large boat. I
knew I could not get the sleeve I needed from the
United States in time to do me any good, I might
never be able to get it from England, and yet the
fact remained that I had to have it right away. The
manager of a Russian foundry said, "Let me make it
for you, Gospodin Simon."
I thought he was talking through his hat, but I was
willing to listen.
"Ill have it for you at four o'clock to-morrow
I knew that was nonsense, even if he did not. The
best American maker might not be able to make that
sleeve in less than two or three weeks. But he put his
experts to work overnight and the sleeve was ready
for me in the morning, a perfect piece. They could
cast steel as we could not then, and I do not know
that we could do as well now. I have seen cast
steel go under the planer and a shaving turned off
one-eighth of an inch thick, one-quarter of an inch
wide, and as long as you wanted it. There has never
been any doubt in my mind that if we had accepted
that Russian offer we could have outbuilt the world
in submarines. Their workmen were all right, but
their morals were too uncertain for the Lake family.
It was during this stay in Russia that I missed get-
ting on board the newly invented airplane, to be a
bit metaphorical. The Wright brothers were then
hard at work on their first plane. There has never
been another built that has equaled that first Wright
plane in efficiency per pound and horse-power. The
American Government had refused to listen to them,
just as it had refused to listen to me, just as it has
always refused to listen to men with ideas. My recol-
lection is that the Wrights had not yet made their
first flight at Kittyhawk, but they had drawn their
plans, and when the Government refused to listen
they tried Charles R. Flint. That gray old adven-
turer's eyes were always open, for he had never been
tied up in red tape or dulled by the air in govern-
ment offices. He sent the papers on to Hart O. Berg,
his representative in Russia. "If this thing is any
good I can get the European rights/' Flint had writ-
My offices were in the Berg establishment at that
time. Berg was engaged to marry a young American
lady and he had a dinner date that evening. While
he could put off the papers he could not safely delay
the date, so he put the drawings on my table.
"I wish you'd look this stuff over," he said. "I don't
know anything about it. Besides that, I'm busy."
I worked over the Wright papers all night long.
When Berg came into the office in the morning I was
still there. "If I were you I'd wire Flint to take the
European rights. These young fellows have some-
I might have had a share of it, but I did not. I had
the money at that time, too. Flint and the Wright
brothers cost me a million dollars and the best agent
NAVAL HISTORY ALMOST CHANGED
a man ever had, for Berg grew so interested in the
flying-machine that he almost forgot my contrap-
tions. There was a funny side issue to this Wright
affair sometime later. In 1899 we had an office at
No. 1 1 Broadway, with my father in charge. One day
my eye caught this advertisement in the old New
York Tribune: "I have invented a flying-machine
that will fly. Those interested address J. C. Lake,
I said to my father: "You're over twenty-one and
can do as you please, but you must remember this.
People think I am crazy because I say I can travel
under water, but my submarines will work. If an-
other Lake offers a machine that will fly they'll think
we're all crazy."
"I guess you're right," father replied. *T11 drop it."
When Berg took the Wright representation in
Europe I cabled father releasing him from his prom-
ise. Of course I did not tell him what I had just
learned, but it seemed to me only fair that he should
at least be able to begin again on the work I had
stopped years before. He did not do so, but he did
build one of the first airdromes in the United States,
near our home at Bridgeport. As I write this I am
reminded that he is now ninety years old and still
Inventor Is Gypped by the Germans
FOR the sake of emphasis I shall use a Sunday
Supplement sentence. It is intentionally flam-
boyant and egotistic. Yet it is essentially true. Here
I might have been the World Master of Subma-
rines. But I muffed my chance.
I blush when I reread that statement. But the fact
is that in Berlin I was offered a post by the Krupps
which would have involved my building or rebuild-
ing the submarine navies of all Europe. The Lake
submarine would be used by all the European na-
tionsGermany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Austria,
Russia either in original form or in adaptations.
Only my own country and Japan would not share
Any one who has ever had anything to do with
inventors will have noted one thing. An invention is
rarely perfected to the liking of its author. He always
has a little bit of business here, a little bit of business
there, as the song tells of the old lady on the village
square. He cannot go near it that he does not see
the possibility of adding a gearing here or stepping
up on the power. If I had accepted the offer of the
Krupps I would have been engaged in turning out a
INVENTOR GYPPED BY THE GERMANS 205
submarine which would have been a distinct advance
upon its predecessors. Lord knows what might have
been the upshot. To-day's surface-skimming navies
might have been outmoded. The outbreak of the
World War might have been hastened. It might have
been made altogether impossible. Any one's guess is
The Lake Company built eleven submarines in all
for Russia, and others were subsequently built by
Russia of the Lake type. Then we moved to Berlin,
primarily because Mrs. Lake and I feared the effect of
the Moscovite morals on our three children, and I
opened an office there. The Krupps had had various
European contracts for building submarines but they
had had also a good deal of bad luck. The boat-
builders of the world had not yet accepted my prin-
ciple of submersion as opposed to diving, and the
consequence was that other submarines "porpoised/*
as they called it. They leaped out of the water and
dived back into it after the fashion of a flying fish.
One of the Krupps' boats stuck itself forty feet deep
in the mud of Kiel Harbor, and a battleship was
called to pull her out.
I built the first two submarines Austria ever owned,
and had a contract by which I was to have been paid
royalties on others which were to be built in the
national shipyards. Other countries were interested.
Russia wanted me to build her a submarine fleet.
Business prospects were good everywhere. One of
the German princes invited me to visit the yards at
Kiel and the works at Essen as his guest and shortly
afterward I made a contract with Krupps on a royalty
basis. As I remember it I was to be paid 6 per cent on
German business, 71^ per cent on Italian business, 12
per cent of the Russian, and 400,000 marks a year as
consulting engineer. I turned over my plans to the
Germans and a contract was initialed along the terms
I have stated.
I should have signed that contract. Instead of do-
ing so I sent it to the United States to put it before
my Board of Directors. For various reasons they de-
clined to accept it. I had a nervous breakdown in
consequence and was sick for five months.
The fat was in the fire when I returned to Europe
from the United States. I was like the average in-
ventor in one respect. I never had enough money to
protect myself. I had not registered my patents in
Germany, and during my absence the Germans dis-
covered this fact. When I came back they were some-
what apologetic I state this to their credit but they
were quite firm.
"We have your plans," they told me, "and you have
no patent protection. Therefore we shall build the
Lake-type boats for ourselves."
There was nothing I could do about it. My Euro-
pean business began to fade out. Italy paid me
$50,000 for a three-day conference during which I
told her experts what was wrong with six new sub-
marines, and there was some little profit-making busi-
ness with Austria, but submarine manufacturing in
Europe seemed to be through as far as I was con-
cerned. I had had a contract with Russia which the
INVENTOR GYPPED BY THE GERMANS 207
Krupps had been willing to take over, but the first
signs of the Russian revolution-to-come were visible
everywhere, and the Krupps preferred to stay out.
About this time Admiral Barondon, then head of the
Kiel works, talked with Hart O. Berg, and Berg re-
ported the conversation to me.
"I met Lake on the street to-day," said Barondon.
"He said nothing about the way in which we have
treated him taking his plans and refusing to pay him
royalty. I was ashamed to look him in the eye."
It was about this time, perhaps somewhat earlier,
that I met Admiral von Tirpitz. He then shared the
opinion of the sea-surface admirals of the world that
a submarine was only an irritating toy, but after he
had made a more careful examination he changed
his mind. I had dwelt at some length on the value of
the submarine as a defensive weapon.
"Ah, yes," said von Tirpitz, "very good indeed for
defense. But that boat would also be good for offen-
sive purposes, and that is what we shall want her for."
That was ten years or more before the World War,
but I have no doubt whatever that the train was laid
then that afterward exploded the submarine sea-
scourge which almost starved Great Britain and, by
a process of richochet, brought the United States into
the war. It is likely, of course, that even though she
had not been exposed to the attacks of the U-boats,
Great Britain would have done her utmost to induce
the United States to help in her defense. It is in no
spirit of criticism that I say that it has always been
the British policy to coax other people into fighting
her battles when possible. But if it had not been for
the heat-wave of propaganda in consequence of the
U-boat successes, it is possible that we might have
kept our heads better than we did.
It had seemed to me that my successes in Russia
and Europe generally might have somewhat softened
the heart of the Navy Department. After all, I had
only been making and selling boats to Russia because
I had not been able to sell them at home. I had a
very real desire to put in the hands of our Navy a sub-
marine which was better than the best anywhere else
in the world, so I had instructed the Lake Torpedo
Boat Company to proceed with the building of the
Simon Lake X at the Newport News yards. There
was an informal understanding that if Number Ten
was all I said it would be, the Navy would buy it.
When I was informed that Number Ten was about
ready for its trial runs I came home, and brought
some members of my operating staff along. My heart
was light. I was a proud man. I should have known
better. At the Newport News yards I was told that
although the men had been working overtime, the
Number Ten would not be ready on the date prom-
ised. I asked the United States Navy Department to
grant me ten days' more time,
"No," was the curt reply.
The Navy Department absolutely refused to look
at the Number Ten. Some unofficial runs were made
by officers stationed at Newport News, along with
officers representing England, Germany, and Brazil.
One American officer went to Washington at his own
INVENTOR GYPPED BY THE GERMANS
expense to beg the officials of the Navy Department
to conduct a test of the Number Ten. When he re-
turned to Newport News he kept out of my way for
several days. At last I met him by accident, and asked
him what luck he had had.
"I feel like retiring from the Navy," he said, bit-
terly. "I am ashamed, soiled."
I did not ask him what he had learned because I
knew better than he did and had known it longer.
Only submarines on which had been chalked the
O.K. of certain financial interests would be looked
at by the Department. I did not waste much time
when I found the door into the Department was still
barred against me. Russia wanted the Number Ten
and I sold her. I had had many uncomfortable ex-
periences in Europe, but I had never come in contact
with the particular kind of dirt which seemed to be
knee-deep in the corridors of our congressional halls.
I was preparing to return to Europe, discouraged
and furious. At this time Sir Tennyson d'Eyncourt
opened a conversation. He was a representative of the
Armstrong-Whitworth Company of England, and
afterward became chief constructor of the British
Navy. Sir Tennyson had thought it worth-while to
come to the United States for the sole purpose of
watching the trials of the Number Ten, although I
had not been able to get a single officer of the Navy
Department to ride down the Potomac River to New-
"I like the Number Ten/' said Sir Tennyson
frankly, "We might have a chat."
As the result of that talk we initialed an agreement
for the manufacture of boats of the Lake type in the
Armstrong-Whitworth yards in England, and the pay-
ment to the Lake Torpedo Boat Company of a sub-
stantial royalty. D'Eyncourt returned to Great Britain
to talk this agreement over with his principals. A few
weeks later I received a cable from him, asking me
to come to England and conclude negotiations with
Sir Andrew Noble and other directors of the Arm-
strong-Whitworth Company. I cabled my assent, of
course. The contract promised to make us a good
return. But we had not reckoned with the agents of
information, commonly called spies, who seem to be
active in every world capital. I have no doubt that
they sold news both ways, but the important fact to
me was that they notified the Russian Embassy in
Washington that I was on my way to England to
make a deal with the Armstrong-Whitworth Com-
pany. Consider the situation at this point:
I had been selling Russia her new submarines.
Russia had just concluded her unfortunate war with
Great Britain and Japan were joined in a naval
Therefore Russia did not want Great Britain to
obtain the new submarine weapon, which might be
used to aid Japan in future hostilities. Russia
promptly notified my agent, Hart O. Berg, in Berlin
that a check for $750,000 on account for the money
due me for submarines was being forwarded to me
INVENTOR GYPPED BY THE GERMANS 211
"But if Lake so much as sets foot in England that
check will be cancelled and no money will be sent
in the future."
The cable reached Berg just as he was sitting down
to dinner. He had a number of guests of the higher
social order, he had been very recently married, and
he knew quite well that a faux pas might interfere
with his future prospects. He was also a sharp-set
American business man. He left the table, dictated
a wireless to me on board ship, and then started for
Plymouth, England, the first port of call for the
steamer on which I was traveling, to see to it that I
did not go down the gangplank. He was still wearing
his dinner clothes.
Berg did not reach Plymouth in time, and an
extraordinary accident almost cost us three-quarters
of a million dollars. Our baggage had been hustled
off the ship as soon as the steamer tied up to the dock,
for I was in a hurry to get to London and talk busi-
ness with the Armstrong-Whitworth people. Mrs.
Lake and I had just moved to go ashore on the tender,
pleasantly aware of the glitter of the lights on the
water of the harbor and the cavernous emptiness of
the landing shed, when the chief steward rushed up
"Sorry, Mr. Lake," said he, "but a wireless has been
sent on board, sir, addressed to a person unknown. I
thought that it might possibly be for you, sir. The
name is not unlike your own."
"Not my name," I said, "but I'd better tear it open.
That name might be a European telegrapher's idea
The wireless, of course, was from Berg, informing
me of the conditions imposed by the Russian Gov-
"I'm staying on board, steward, and going on to
Cherbourg. Will you get my baggage back from the
"Oh, but I can't, sir. It is on the bottom of the
pile and we are just about to sail."
"Here's five pounds," I said. "Get that baggage. If
you don't we'll just have to sail without it."
I do not know how many stewards he put to work,
but we had our bags back in the cabin before the
steamer had cleared the harbor. At Berlin we cashed
the Russian check, but things began to happen to us.
The Germans were not content with taking my plans
and refusing to pay me royalty on the boats they built
with them. They demanded that I pay them tax on
the business conducted elsewhere by my entire or-
ganization, on the theory that my principal office was
in Berlin and that the company was in fact a German
company. That was the last straw that broke the back
of my patient camel and I decided to leave Berlin.
There had been other straws. I had been useful to
the Germans, but I was forced to conclude that Ger-
man officials can be pretty nasty.
We caught a man named Beyersdorf, a draftsman
in our office, copying the plans we had drawn for
some large submarines designed for Russia. He was
bounced out of the office and fired with every benefit
INVENTOR GYPPED BY THE GERMANS 213
o bell and book. Then what did he do but sue me
for the injury to his "good German honor?" He did
not have any honor, as far as I could see, and the
courts agreed with me, for he carried his case on
appeal as far as was possible. It annoyed me.
Perhaps the insult I had given the thief's good
German honor accounted for it, but not long after
my house and office were searched on a charge that I
had passed counterfeit money, and I was ordered to
appear before the Hoch Politzei, on my return from
a business trip in the country. The day I got back I
notified the High Police that I would appear before
them at once if they desired, but that if this was not
convenient, I must leave for Vienna to keep an ap-
pointment with the Austrian Minister of Marine.
"There is no reply to the good Mister's message"
was the word my German representative brought
back to me from his visit on my behalf to the Hoch
Politzei. I did not return from Vienna for three days,
and when I did so I learned that I had been guilty
of lese-majesty and must not leave Germany until I
had purged myself of this offense. But I was due in
St. Petersburg immediately, so I asked American
Consul-General Mason to advise me.
"Go see the Hoch Politzei. Find out what it is all
At the police bureau I was given an arrogant run-
around. I must sit there and be quiet and bow from
the belly whenever a police officer came in, none of
which I did. I had taken Professor Schade with me
to act as interpreter, for I had little more than no
German, and after genuflecting and mein-herr-ing he
learned that the only official who had any authority
to take my matter up was the police prosecutor. The
policemen simply refused to bother him with such a
trivial matter. It was of no importance to them that
I had a reservation for that night on the Nord Ex-
press for St. Petersburg, or that my engagements in
Russia were of considerable importance. Simon Lake
of New Jersey blew up.
"I'm damned sick and tired of this/' I said. "I'm
going to leave."
I started down the hall, meeting as I did so a man
in a black robe and a mortar-board hat. The police
officer whispered to Schade, "There is the police
prosecutor. If Herr Simon wishes to speak to him on
his own responsibility not involve the police"
"What's the matter?" asked the police prosecutor
in perfect English.
We told the story and the prosecutor said that the
trouble was that a man named Lake had been charged
with a crime. There was no thought in his mind
that I was the one involved, and if I would go over
to the Crime Detection Bureau and confront the com-
plainant, I would be discharged at once. "I will tele-
phone instructions. Mr. Lake's arrest was merely a
part of our plan of procedure. The police undertook
to arrest every foreigner in Berlin named Lake, and
the quickest way out is to go over to the Bureau and
The other Lake was tall and black-haired and I
am short and red-haired, but this made no difference.
INVENTOR GYPPED BY THE GERMANS 215
The order had gone out for the arrest of all Lakes and
I had been caught. The other Lake got away, as far
as I know. He made me a lot of trouble, but the stu-
pidity of the police was such that I sympathized with
him and sincerely hoped he would never be caught.
His crime, incidentally, was the passing of $250 in
With one thing and another I had had all I wanted
of Germany, and when I learned of some sunken
treasure off the coast of Holland, I determined to
close the Berlin office and go to England. I opened
offices at 11, Regent Street, London.
Hunting for the Lutine's Treasure
SIX million dollars is a lot of money. In bank
credits it is an enormous sum. In gold and silver
bars and stacks of golden guineas it seems even more.
It inflames the imagination. For one hundred and
fifty years Dutch fishermen have patroled the coast
of the Zuider Zee, near the Texel in Holland, and
now and then their patience is rewarded by the find-
ing of a golden disk or two. The markings have been
almost obliterated by the scouring of the sands, but
they were once English guineas, and they are to-day
tangible evidence that somewhere on the sand-banks
of the Texel Roads lies the noble freight of the
There is no treasure-ship story so thoroughly docu-
mented as that of the old frigate. The Lutine Bible
was for years one of the chief treasures of Lloyd's of
London I am proud to say that I own it now and
those who had influence were permitted to glimpse
it. It is bound in black oak recovered from the
Lutine's hull and ornamented with polished copper
from her sheathing, and it contains the history of the
Lutine's loss. Seventy-five of its pages are covered
with the fine handwriting of Lloyd's clerks, and
sixty-eight pages remain blank. I still hope that one
HUNTING FOR LUTINE's TREASURE 217
of these days I may tell in them the end of the
My European hopes had gone glimmering. Russia
was engaging in the first movement of the revolution
which was ultimately to result in the Soviet state.
The Krupp contracts with Russia for submarine-
building, under which I should have benefited, were
waste papers, for the Krupps refused to take chances.
Austria was building boats on the Lake plan and still
owes me money for royalties. Germany had taken my
plans, laughed at me because I lacked patents, and
was building Lake submarines. Italy was building
her own boats along the Lake lines. The United
States was still closed to me. The Lake Torpedo Boat
Company had made money, and I was anxious to de-
velop the commercial aspects of the submarine.
Salvaging the Lutine was an undertaking that was
right down my street. I would have succeeded except
for the interposition of factors to be dealt with later.
I may yet succeed. There are six million dollars-
four million dollars perhaps only three million dol-
larsto be torn out of the sands of the Fly Banks.
The Lutine adventure does not depend on tradition
or faded maps or records illegible with age. Every-
thing is known about it, except how to recover the
I know that I know how.
The Lutine was a frigate of the French Navy, cap-
tured by the British during the republican demon-
strations in France in 1793. It is more accurate to
say that the French Royalists turned her over to the
British. She was eventually overhauled, resheathed
and to some extent rebuilt, and sent to the North
Sea station. In 1799 there was a money panic in
Hamburg, several banks blew up, and a number of
merchants who were correspondents of London firms
were in grave danger of bankruptcy. London de-
cided to come to the rescue, precisely as in more re-
cent years Great Britain and the United States
propped the faltering franc. Treasure amounting to
between five and six million dollars was placed on
the Lutine, and she 'was ordered to take it to Ham-
Nowadays that kind of a shipment would be des-
patched in precisely the same way. There was a war
on in which France, England, and Holland were
engaged, and the risk of loss if the money were sent
by a commercial vessel would have been very grave.
The war had its periods of activity and lethargy, but
it was apt to break out at any moment or place. War
was a more leisurely and on the whole a pleasanter
occupation in those days. Lloyd's granted insurance
to the amount of $4,500,000 and additional insurance
was taken out in Hamburg for $800,000; in addition
about $750,000 of British Government cash was
placed on board. There is some uncertainty as to
the actual total, and one sum that had been earmarked
for the Lutine reached the docks too late, and was
afterward sent to Hamburg by packet. But approxi-
mately six million dollars in gold and silver specie
were in her strong room when she sailed on October
9, 1799. Then something went wrong.
HUNTING FOR LUTINE's TREASURE 219
It has been generally accepted that the Lutine was
driven off her course by storm, but no reasonable
explanation has ever been offered for the fact that
she was driven so far off. A suggestion that there was
treachery on board may be passed as read but not
approved, for there is not the slightest evidence o
it. The Lutine struck the Texel reef and broke up,
and one of the two men saved died later from ex-
posure. Lloyd's paid the face of its insurance policy,
and preserved its proprietary rights of salvage by the
same legal means. These rights have been kept alive
The Lutine lies in seventy feet of water on sand-
banks that shift with every storm. This accounts for
the fact that not one of the attempts at salvage which
have been made has been financially successful. It is
true that immediately after the wreck some of the
Dutch fishermen of the Zuider Zee had the kind of
experience that only takes place in dreams, for the
Lutine lay in only twenty feet of water. Some gold
was tonged out of her hold, and they were able to
dive for and recover other treasures. But shortly after-
wards the frigate slipped off the reef into deeper
water and there she lies to-day. About $420,000 has
been recovered, but the costs of the different attempts
probably exceed the salvage. These attempts, accord-
ing to a published statement, were made with, "rams,
grabs, kippers, and nets."
I made a contract with Lloyd's, by which I agreed
to stand all costs and take 50 per cent of the recov-
eries, during a period of two years. It seemed to me
certain that the steel tube which I had used with
success in cargo-salvaging operations in Long Island
Sound would be ideally adapted to this job. It had
already proven its efficiency, and I believed that it
was the only instrument that could be used under
the existing conditions. Every storm washed the sand
back and forth over what remains of the Lutine, so
that divers worked under almost impossible condi-
tions. It had been demonstrated by earlier opera-
tions that dredges are not able to bring up gold and
silver bars. They had been found but they almost
invariably slipped through the jaws of the drags.
Divers, however, could stand in the air-lock of my
tube and cover the ground literally inch by inch.
They could put on diving suits in the air-lock and
explore the wreck and the vicinity and return to the
protection of the air-lock at will.
My friend and agent Hart O. Berg was then in
London and we took offices at 11, Regent Street,
which were shared for a time by the Wright brothers.
Berg was greatly interested in our treasure-hunting
prospects, for we had two elements which no other
expedition that I have ever heard of possessed. In
the first place we knew exactly where the gold was
lying, and in the second place we had a tested in-
strument by which it might be recovered. He pro-
posed an English company with a capital of 50,000,
in which Sir Christopher Furness, Sir Charles Mac-
Laren, Sir Henry Normand, and Lord Palmer were
interested. All the members, to the best of my knowl-
HUNTING FOR LUTINE's TREASURE
edge, were either ship-builders or ship-owners and
thoroughly familiar with the conditions under which
we would operate.
I began to build my tube immediately. When it
was completed it was ninety-five feet long, and sus-
ceptible of extension if needed. The interior diam-
eter was great enough to permit divers to move in it
easily, and it was my intention to suspend it from a
surface vessel by a kind of ball-and-socket toggle at
an angle which would enable men to walk up and
down on the ladder as though on a stairway. At the
foot was the air-lock, provided with a sea-door and
portholes, and large enough to accommodate the div-
ing apparatus, tongs, grabs and the like, which the
divers would use. This was given a test in the British
Channel, under conditions approximating those to
be anticipated in the Zuider Zee, and it worked per-
While the tube was being built I had become in-
terested in another treasure wreck, the history of
which is one of the most romantic in my knowledge.
When the Spanish Armada sailed to attack the coast
of England, its flagship was the Florenda. On board
the Florenda was not only a huge treasure in gold
and silver, but a gem-encrusted crown and, so tradi-
tion says, a lady who was to have been crowned with
it as the Queen of England. I was never sufficiently
interested in the lady to discover whether or no this
story was true, but the rest of the Florences history
seems to be well documented. The history of the
Armada's defeat is common knowledge. The Florenda
took to her heels and found refuge in Tobermory
Bay off the coast of Scotland.
A confused tale of "Irishers" and their operations
and a feud between the Macleans and the Macdonalds
and the Clan Ranald and the Clan Tan follows. I say
it is confused, but in fact it is for the most part
definite enough, although it has no part in this narra-
tive. The Spaniards allied themselves with the Mac-
leans, being paid for their promised aid in food, but
before they delivered the aid they demanded that
Donald Glas Maclean, son of John Dubh Maclean
of Morvern, be sent on board as hostage. Donald Glas
discovered that the Spaniards, nicely provisioned and
recovered from fatigue, were planning to put to sea
and leave the Macleans holding the bag. Whereupon
Donald Glas found his way into the ship's magazine
with a lighted candle, and blew her up. Some Span-
iards were on shore leave, and Spanish features are
still to be seen near-by the Bay of Tobermory. The
others were killed. With them died the Spanish prin-
cessif there ever were one who was to have worn
the crown as Queen of England.
The Bay of Tobermory was in 1588 in the estate of
the Argyll family and every succeeding generation
of the Argylls has kept its faith alive in the existence
of the Florencia and its treasures. There is, in fact,
no doubt of either. The Florencia lies barely ninety
yards from the end of the pier at the town of Tober-
mory, in sixty feet of water, and enough has been
recovered to make certain that she is the true
Florencia and that her battered hulk did at one time
HUNTING FOR LUTINE*S TREASURE
contain the treasure. In 1670 a bronze cannon, eleven
and a half feet long and with a bore of seven and a
half inches was recovered from the wreck, and now
stands in the grounds of Inveraray Castle, one of the
seats of the Argyll family. On its breech are to be
seen decorations graved by Benvenuto Cellini when
he was working for Francis the First of France at
Fontainebleau. No one knows precisely how the gun
passed into Spanish hands.
Those interested in treasure hunting will do well
to read the story of the Florencia, which I have no
space for here. I might add that two Earls of Argyll
lost their heads on the block because of it, that James,
Duke of York, was almost drowned in a salvaging ex-
pedition in 1682, and that the Argyll dignity was
raised from an earldom to a dukedom because the
family helped dethrone James the Second, who had
tried to steal their wreck in Tobermory. In 1873 the
Florencia was located through the employment of a
primitive form of the modern diving suit, but the
vessel had sunk deep in the mud. In 1905 a salvaging
company was formed with Glasgow money, and a vast
quantity of ancient arms, stone cannon-balls, and an
old silver candelabra was brought up. Glasgow mer-
chants are the canniest of all canny Scots. Yet this
company dissipated its money because this seems in-
credibleinstead of using approved methods for re-
covery it depended on the guidance o a Scottish
"dowser." I have heard what kind of magic the dowser
used, but it wasn't good enough.
Perhaps a score of inadequately financed, unscien-
tific, more or less scatter-brained expeditions were
formed to recover the Tobermory treasure. The lat-
est and soundest of which I have knowledge was that
organized by Lieutenant-Colonel Kenneth MacKenzie
Foss, who wanted me to join him and make use of
my submarine tube. It is likely that I should have
done so, for he knew exactly what he was about, and
had enough capital to cover the costs of a sanely
conducted expedition. But Foss was ultimately se-
verely injured and his company languished.
Prospects in the United States had again become
promising, as they had had a habit of doing for
years. Again the forward-looking officers of the
United States Navy were trying, as one admiral said
to me, "to break the hold that high finance had on
the Navy Department's throat/' The Lake Torpedo
Boat Company had a very considerable surplus, and
I had acquired quite a decent little fortune of my
own through my European ventures. When I learned
that there was a chance a sentiment had been aroused
in Congress in favor of permitting the Navy's ex-
perts to have their own way in the buying of sub-
marines, instead of allowing the congressional clique
to continue in control, I determined to return home
and try once more.
We never did get a chance to try out the submarine
tube on the Lutine's treasures. I laid up the tube at
Brightlingsea, and have been paying storage charges
How Business Men Make War
I DIDN'T know what I was getting into. Even if
I had known, it is probable that I would have
gone right along getting into it. It must be that I am
rather bull-headed, for when properly qualified
prophets have warned me that the future was full of
trouble and pitfalls I have kept on going. It is also
fairly certain that I was the least bit cocky at this
Sixteen years earlier I had started in business with
no capital at all except the uncertain returns from
the improved steering-gears and trawl-winders I in-
stalled with my own hands on the oyster-boats of the
Chesapeake Bay. My opponent in building and sell-
ing submarines in the United States had been a well-
financed company with a millionaire at its head. Mr.
J. P. Holland, inventor of the Holland submarine,
who had disposed of some portion of his interests to
the Electric Boat Company, was not only a talented
man, but he had had years of experience, while I
was still a school-boy. He sold his Plunger to the
United States Government in 1901, that being, so far
as I know, the first military submarine to be bought
by any government. The odds had been against me.
This is no place for mock modesty. My success had
been complete. The principle of level-keel sub-
mergence on which I had built my boats had been
accepted by every navy in the world save that of my
own country. I had been offered a contract by Russia
to convert her surface fleet into an undersea navy.
Austria and Italy were building boats on the Lake
plan, and Germany was doing likewise, even if royal-
ties were no longer being paid to me. Great Britain
and France had had their fill of the diving type of
submarines, and had come around to my way of
thinking. And a company of the leading shipping
men of England had backed my treasure-raising tube
with the promise of fifty thousand pounds. The Lake
Torpedo Boat Company had been a penniless orphan
and now it had plenty of money. I was possessed of a
nice little fortune. All in sixteen years.
In 1902 I had shown the way to the well-armed
submarine service of to-day by putting a small gun
on the Protector's turret. In 1904 I had drawn plans
for big-gun mounting on the decks of the larger
submarines which were to come.
As an amusement in my spare time I had applied
for patents for three types of airships, and it is one
of my regrets that I have been so busy that I did
not follow them up, for I believe the principle will
ultimately be adopted for air freight transportation.
These plans called for a double balloon, with cigar-
shaped hulls, with planes forward and aft. The ship
would have been in fact an aerial catamaran and
would have carried a large load at fair speed and
with complete safety if helium were used for infla-
HOW BUSINESS MEN MAKE WAR
tion. Reversible propellers, variable-angle motors,
landing wheels, and an anchoring device were among
its features. One of these days this idea will come into
common use. I say this because the flying-machine
to-day is the most inefficient piece of machinery of
which I have any knowledge. It is possible to make
long flights at high speeds and carry heavy loads, of
course, but at an excessive cost in energy and dollars.
The first ten-horse-power machine of the Wright
brothers was more efficient in its application of power
than the best of to-day's planes. If it were possible to
get 25 per cent of theoretic efficiency one hundred
horse-power could lift one hundred tons. Three or
four years ago I patented plans for a plane which
is a combination of the features of a helicopter and
an ordinary plane, and which met its laboratory tests
successfully, but it is at present only in its experi-
I have retold the tale to show that if I was cocky I
had a reason for it.
When I learned that the Navy would be given
authority by Congress to do its own submarine-buy-
ing I drew some new plans. I proposed to build the
finest submarine ever constructed. My correspondents
in America had made clear to me that the compe-
tition would be stiffer than ever but that I would
have a large body of naval opinion on my side. In
1904-05 lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Murray, then
Commandant of Submarine Defense, had stated in
his annual report that a boat of the Lake type was
needed at the School for Submarine Defense for ex-
perimental work, for: "This is the only submarine
boat, as far as it is known, that can be efficiently used
in countermining electrically controlled mines."
In effect I offered this: "The Lake Company will
build at its own expense a submarine which will be:
'Taster on the surface or under it than any boat
now building, either in the United States or abroad.
"It will have a greater radius of action, more pow-
erful armament, eight torpedo tubes, safety features
by which men can escape when the boat is submerged,
and facilities for planting mines and cutting cables.
"It will do more than the United States Govern-
ment has ever asked that any submarine do."
Then I made my brag. "If it does not do all that is
claimed for it the United States Government need
never pay us a cent of money/'
The Seal did all that I claimed for it and more. It
was hastily conceived and hastily designed I will tell
the story presently but I believe this super-sub-
marine built twenty-seven years ago still holds the
record for efficiency in speed, both in surface and
submerged running, for horse-power per ton of dis-
placement and armament surface. The day it was
launched it was the best undersea boat that had ever
been built or that had ever been proposed for our
In 1910 I was in Pola, Austria, and learned that a
date had been set on which the United States would
open bids for the construction of a submarine which
would outperform any that had ever been built. I
HOW BUSINESS MEN MAKE WAR
called in Edward L. Peacock, our chief engineer, and
told him what I proposed to do.
"I am going to get up plans for the largest and
fastest submarine ever built and we have only two
weeks in which to do it. Then I must sail for home
to get there in time for the opening of the bids."
"O.K.," said Peacock.
We called in some of our draftsmen from the
Arsenal and got at it in quarters we improvised in
the hotel. We did not have time to check all the posi-
tions of weights with the displacements nor the
speeds; I took a chance on going ahead on my own
judgment. Peacock and I disagreed at times, notably
on the new boat's efficiency in the use of torpedoes,
either when submerged or on the surface.
Peacock finally said, "Go ahead, Simon. Have it
your own way. It's a funny thing about some of your
designs. According to established practice they should
not work, but somehow the damned things always
I considered that a great compliment, for not only
was Peacock a sticker for his point of view, but he
was one of the most efficient engineers I have ever
known. I had known Peacock ever since the early
days when the first Argonaut was being built. He
was then chief engineer and John Mclnnis was chief
constructor and the pair would have arguments that
lasted for hours. An engineer thinks of a ship's hull
only as the vehicle which carries his beautiful ma-
chinery, and is apt to refer to the ship as "an old pot.**
Mclnnis later became chief constructor and vice-
president of the Bath Iron Works.
Peacock had been chief draftsman at Cramps, chief
engineer at Harlan and Hollingsworth's, and chief
engineer at the Columbian before he was twenty-five
years old. He had designed and superintended the
building of the engines for the first American torpedo
boats, die Rogers, Foote, and Winslow, and had a
part in other naval building. While with the Midvale
Company, he cooperated in drawing the designs for
the engines of E. J. Hill's great Minnesota, which up
to that time were the largest marine engines ever
built. He was with me about ten years and then re-
turned to England to become chief engineer in charge
of the designs for submarines in the Swan and Hunter
plant. He was very fast at getting a new idea and
putting it down on paper.
The Seal's tests were entirely successful and the
Secretary of the Navy not only accepted her without
question, but gave us contracts to build other similar
boats. However, I did not draw an easy breath until
the papers had been signed and delivery made, for I
had had more than one experience with the odd
things that happen when an inventor tries to buck
moneyed men who are in competition, I have already
told how the Navy Board refused to try out the Pro-
lector during the winter of 1903 because of the ice
conditions in the harbor. Then before we sailed for
Newport where we hoped to be given a test a de-
liberate effort was made to sink the Protector at her
dock. One day I received an unsigned letter: "You
HOW BUSINESS MEN MAKE WAR
better put the Protector in a safer place* They're
going to try to sink her."
By this time I had learned to be wary, and so I
anchored her in shallow water and put the old Argo-
naut between her and the channel and hired a pri-
vate policeman named Murphy to stand night watch.
Murphy was a fine, upstanding Irishman who took
no account of odds. Late that night a big sea-going
tug steamed into the harbor and started head-on for
the Protector, but rammed the Argonaut instead.
Murphy saw the tug coming and jumped to cover
behind the conning-tower with his revolver ready for
"If you come any further I'll blow your liver lights
out," he yelled to the man at the wheel.
The steersman gave the tug the reverse bell and
headed out into the Sound at full speed. The Argo-
naut was a sturdy craft and not a great deal of damage
had been done, but it was evident that my anonymous
friend had been well informed. Pinkerton's men
learned that the tug had been chartered the previous
day to a waterside captain who was well known as a
tough, but there was nothing we could do about it.
The Protector had not been hurt, and we could
I have already told how we were refused a trial of
our Number Ten because a former United States
Senator asked the then Secretary of the Navy to turn
us down. The politician later told me that some of his
friends did not want the Navy to know what the
Number Ten could do, and so kept us from getting a
test. Number Ten was the best of her day, and was
later sold to Russia. While I was in Europe on the
trip that resulted in this sale my directors decided to
build another boat of the Protector type, but to give
the new boat a little more speed and a greater radius
of action. The contract was given to the Newport
News Ship-building Company. She was built during
my absence, but when she was ready for trial I sent
one of my operators home to put her through her
paces before asking the Navy for a trial. Things hap-
pened for which I have never been given an explana-
Why did my trial captain cable me at St. Peters-
burg that she "was the best ever" and "stiff as a
church" when he knew better? Why was so much
surplus weight added to her superstructure that her
static stability was reduced? Why was it that, after I
had come home and gotten her into a very satisfac-
tory condition having undone the sabotage that had
'been practised on her some one opened three small
valves in her hull and so admitted water which al-
most ruined her batteries? This delayed the trial un-
til after the Navy Appropriations Bill had been
passed, and then we found that a clause had been
sneaked in which prevented the Navy's purchasing
her, although on the records she was superior in many
respects to any boat the Navy had at the time, I do
not know the answers.
I do know that Pinkertons learned that one of
our crew had been flashing a roll of bills the night
the valves were opened and that this man then ran
HOW BUSINESS MEN MAKE WAR 233
away and has never been traced. On the continent
of Europe such things might happen, but it is cer-
tain that in any of the countries with which I am
acquainted an inquiry would have followed. If men
were caught in an attempt to injure the national
means of defense they would have been backed be-
fore a brick wall in front of a firing squad pronto.
This is probably the only country in the world where
financiers or politicians are able to control the ac-
tions of the Army and Navy Departments through
Does that sound like a fairly serious charge?
When I was first called to Washington to submit
plans to the Navy Department for a submarine the
chairman of the Senate Naval Committee advised me
to repeat my story to the chairman of the House
Naval Committee. Eugene Foss was the chairman,
but in his absence Judge Dayton of West Virginia
was in charge. After listening to me he said, "Mr.
Lake, you have a hard road ahead of you. No matter
how good your boat may be, there are other interests
trying to force the Government to accept a different
"I think most members of Congress are honest
men who want to do the right thing, but the trouble
is that the few who do not are in a position to be
continually pressing their colleagues to vote their
way. Not many members know much about so highly
specialized a thing as a submarine, and few Congress-
men are able to vote on their own knowledge as to
what the Navy should be permitted to have."
That has been changed entirely now, and the Navy
decides for itself what it needs and asks Congress
only for the money it should have. Yet it is not so
many years since a tragedy revived some of my earlier
In 1926 die S'4 was running off Provincetown with
only her periscope above water, when she was cut
down by another vessel, and sank with all hands.
Some of her forty men are known to have remained
alive in their compartments for at least three days,
and had she been fitted with escape compartments
such as I had been advocating for years I believe that
every living man could have been rescued within an
hour after she sank. There is no secret about how
these escape compartments work and the natural
question is why they have not been used. The only
reason I can think of is that the escape-compartment
plan was patented by Simon Lake. Yet the patent
expired years ago, and I had repeatedly offered the
free use of it to the Navy Department long before.
The only reply I ever received was that the Navy
thought the escape compartment would take up space
which could be better used for storage purposes. At
the congressional hearing on the sinking of the S-^
a former naval officer took the stand. He had been
for years an official of a company that has built a
number of submarines for the United States. He was
asked: "Do you know of any means by which the
men could have been rescued from the 8-4 when she
HOW BUSINESS MEN MAKE WAR
But when I was put on the stand and asked the
same question I said, "Yes, sir. We have built boats
for foreign countries containing escape compartments
and we built one into the Seal, which we sold the
United States Government many years ago. If there
had been such a compartment on the 8-4 I believe all
the men could have been saved."
The interrogating Senator turned to Commander
Hoover, who represented the Navy Department at
the hearing: "Do you know about this device?"
"Yes, sir," Hoover replied.
"Thank you, Mr. Lake," said the Senator, turning
to me. "That is all, I think. There are no more
When I left the room I was followed by Mrs.
Jones, widow of Commander Jones, who died with
"Why didn't you tell the real reason?" she asked.
"Because I could only answer the questions that
were asked me."
Even to this day I do not know why escape com-
partments have not been placed on every submarine.
However, I understand that they are now being in-
stalled on some of the larger vessels. There is no rea-
son why they should not be added to all the
submarines now in commission. They are merely
modifications of my grandfather's old powder-horn.
But this is really a part of the story of the sinking
of the 8-48.
It was not all fun and games when we were build-
ing for the Government. The S-^5 was almost lost,
her crew with her, because some smart aleck in the
drafting-room had had an idea and acted on it with-
out putting it up to the old man. I never refused to
listen to a man who thought he had found some-
thing. I was glad to listen. If he really had something
he got full credit and even if he had nothing he got
credit for trying. It galled me when a draftsman made
changes in my plans on his own responsibility.
The twenty-eight-inch submerging valves on the
S'48 had been planned to open against the force
of the water. The reason for this seems perfectly
clear to me, for in this way the power of the inflow-
ing current could be used to close the valves quickly,
and that might be highly necessary. The submerging
tanks had a capacity of one hundred and twenty-five
tons of water, but if it happened that we only wanted
fifty tons it might be highly inconvenient if the en-
tire one hundred and twenty-five were forced on us.
Also a jammed valve would close more easily if the
weight of the current could be called on for aid.
But the smart-aleck draftsman had reversed this plan,
which had been tested and proven good on all of
my earlier submarines. He made the intake valves
open with the current.
No harm might have been done except for an acci-
dent. I would ultimately have discovered the change
in the construction plans, or the weakness would
have been found out in one of the test dives. But
the noon whistle blew one day and the workman who
had been screwing on a manhole cover in a dark
compartment back of the Diesel engines dropped his
INTERIOR VIEW OF A MODERN SUBMARINE
This picture shows some of the mechanism and the torpedo tubes.
HOW BUSINESS MEN MAKE WAR $37
tools and hustled for his dinner bucket, leaving his
job uncompleted. After lunch he was given another
job and with the light-hearted inconsequence too
often found in mechanics he forgot all about the
The 8-48 went to sea for a trial, accompanied by a
launch. On the way the engines of the launch broke
down and she hobbled back to Bridgeport. Arriving
at the trial grounds the order was given to dive, the
conning-tower hatch was closed, the rudder set, and
the flood valves open. Down went the 8-48 like an
arrow. The water rushed from the ballast tanks
through the manhole left open by the careless work-
man and flooded the engine-room so rapidly that the
men had barely time enough to get forward and close
the water-tight door between the engine and control
rooms. The 8-48 sank in seventy-five feet of water
with her bow inclined slightly upward. No one on
shore knew she had gone down. If they had known
they would have had no idea where to search for her.
Fortunately a number of the crew were old-timers
and kept their heads. The problem was to get her
bow above water, for her stern portion was filled and
open to the sea. All hands started to move weights
as far aft as possible and the ballast tanks forward
were blown out. Still the bow did not break water.
Then one of the men thought of a sounding device
I had installed, the design of which had been sug-
gested by the old powder-horn that had led me to in-
corporate the first air-lock in the little Argonaut
In order to take soundings through her bottom I
had set in a double-ended valve, six inches in diam-
eter. When the lower end was closed the lead was
dropped into the six-inch pipe which connected the
two valves. The wire was passed through a hole in
the upper valve, which had been properly stuffed
against the intake of water, the lower valve was
opened, and the lead dropped. In this way the lead
could be raised and lowered at will. The 8-48 had a
lot of lead ballast on board and by alternately open-
ing and closing this sounding box the men were able
to drop sufficient pig-lead into the water to bring her
forward torpedo tubes clear of the surface. One by
one the men escaped through them.
The $-48 had completed all her tests except the so-
called crash dive, in which we were allowed two and
a half minutes to submerge from light surface con-
dition running under engines to periscope depth, or
about twenty-eight feet. To do this it was necessary
to shut down our Diesel motors, transfer to electric
motors, close all air-intake and exhaust valves and
take in one hundred and twenty-five tons of water
ballast. I had wanted to witness this crash dive but
had been detained in New York, and the first I knew
of the disaster was when the New York Navy Yard
called me. "The 8-48 is down in seventy-five feet of
water. The men have all been saved."
I left immediately for the scene, and found her
prow out of water. We were able to close the torpedo
tubes and keep her in a semibuoyant condition until
Merritt and Chapman's large derrick arrived and
HOW BUSINESS MEN MAKE WAR 39
pulled her stem out of the mud. I the men had not
kept their heads and dropped the pig-lead bit by bit
through the sounding well a long and difficult job
on the sharply sloping deck they would have per-
ished and we might not have known even to-day
what had become of the boat.
This experience led me to renew in even stronger
form the recommendations I had previously made
that escape compartments be built into every Ameri-
United States Still Owes the Money
IF and when the United States gets into another
war I will know more about how to deal with
the Government. Yet that is not an exactly fair way
of putting what I want to say. We speak of the
Government that overmastering, vague, ruthless ma-
chine which has command of our lives and fortunes
but we are really dealing with men. Tired men,
cowardly men, courageous, patriotic, honest, con-
fused, dishonest, foolish men. The sum of the men
makes up the Government. One may be in a constant
state of exasperation because of the injuries suffered
from individuals, and still recognize that behind them
is that thing we call the Government pushing on
I do not know precisely how much money the
United States owes me and those associated with me.
I may never get a penny of it. I feel that we have
been most unfairly treated. Yet I have no hard feel-
ings so far as any individual is concerned. A national
madness is a part of war. The nation is no more sane
and competent than a man is who has sustained a
nervous shock and on top of that has taken to drink.
With the success of the new Seal submarine I felt
the time had come when we would be able to do
UNITED STATES STILL OWES MONEY 241
some good business, either with the Government or
with private parties. So I bought some land on the
Housatonic River which was admirably adapted to
ship-building purposes. When the United States en-
tered the War some of the practical ship-builders in
our organization asked me to come up to the Boston
Customs House and talk over a plan to build some
standard ships. I took Foster Hawkins with me, as
he had been in charge of our ship repair yard, and
had plans for two wooden schooners and almost-an-
order for them from the Government.
"Come in with me," he said, "and well build
them on a cost-plus- i5-per-cent basis."
I was willing to do so, although I wanted to talk
over Hawkins* plans and get more information. Out
of this came a development that must seem incredible
to the reader. I can hardly believe it myself, although
I was one of the participants. Yet it was a thoroughly
commonplace example of war-madness. A representa-
tive of the United States Shipping Board was present
with us at this meeting at the Customs House.
"I like your plans/' he said, speaking of those Haw-
kins, had drawn for the two wooden schooners. "But
you cannot get an order from the Government for
only two ships. We need so many ships. Any ship-
yard that takes a government order must give govern-
ment work the preference."
That was all right with us. We were honest and
patriotic men, and we wanted to do what we could
for our country. I will not say that we had no thought
of the profits we might make, for that would not be
true, but we were first of all concerned to do our
share as Americans. We said we would give govern-
ment work preference at our yard.
"Then we will come to an understanding, here
and now," said the Shipping Board's representative.
"I have no order blank with me, but you can take
this statement I am about to make as a definite con-
"I want you to build six ways immediately. Then
I want you to build ten wooden steamers of thirty-
five hundred tons each.
"You will be paid on the cost-plus- lo-per-cent basis.
"As soon as the plans for the ships are ready we
can draw up specifications and sign a contract based
on them, but you need not wait for that. You can go
ahead and order your lumber and the other things
you need, and an inspector representative of the Ship-
ping Board will be sent to you in a few days."
It does not sound as though we had good sense to
accept that verbal order as a contract, but that is just
what we did. I had some loose money at the time,
and with Kenneth and Archibald McNeill of Bridge-
port I formed the Housatonic Ship-building Com-
pany and started in to build six sets of ways. The
Shipping Board seemed to have accepted the verbal
contract quite as sincerely and enthusiastically as we
did. An inspector and accountant were sent to us,
and they inspected and accounted, but we did not
get any money, or was the written contract ever forth-
coming. Then the man from Boston who had made
the verbal contract with us retired from his position
UNITED STATES STILL OWES MONEY 243
with the Shipping Board and Eades Johnson was
sent up from New Orleans to take his place.
"The lawyers are holding up your contract/' he
told me, time after time, in the offices he had opened
in New York in which to handle the affairs of the
New England district. "But it's all right."
"It isn't all right with me any longer," I told him
on one of my numerous calls at his office. "We have
spent about a quarter of a million dollars and we
haven't the scratch of a pen to show that the Govern-
ment will carry out this contract."
"Sit down," said Mr. Johnson, "and 111 call Wash-
ington right now."
Washington reported that the contract would be
put in the mails right away, but it did not come.
Then I sent Mr. Hawkins to Washington to find out
what had gone wrong, and he brought back a con-
tract for us to sign which was nothing like the verbal
understanding. It provided for a flat profit of $15,000
for each shipor a total of $150,000 for the tenand
that would not reimburse us for the money we had
"All right," said Washington, "tack on an adden-
dum to the contract in which you make plain what
you think you should be paid. We cannot pay you
until we get some form of contract."
As a pay day was almost due we hastily wrote the
required addendum and attached it to the contract.
At Washington it was torn off and the contract sent
back to us with red ink drawn through the line in
which we were promised $15,000 profit on each ship.
A note followed: "We have reduced the profit sum
from $15,000 to 1 10,000. If this does not suit we can
probably adjust our differences later."
We were hooked, and what could we do about it?
There is little morality in war, plus that vast con-
fusion and fatigue and uncertainty and lack of defi-
nite knowledge of which I have spoken. We built
six of these wooden steamships and never got a penny
for them from the Government. Yet the bill as ren-
dered to the Government was little more than half
what identical ships, built in government yards, cost
the country, and our ships were far better built.
This is not the only unfortunate experience I had
with the Government during the War. We had con-
tracted to buy the Craig Ship-building Company,
with a plant at Long Beach, California, as it seemed
advisable to build some of our submarines and other
ships on the west coast. We took several contracts
from the Government but at last we were frightened
out. No one knew what the next day might bring
forth. Materials and wage costs might go skyshooting
at any moment. The Government had made a rule
that not less than five dollars a day be paid any ship-
yard worker, and some classes of labor, of course,
were paid much more. We had taken our contracts
on a fixed-price basis and the costs had risen so fast
that no profit was left. When we were offered other
government contracts we sent a man to see the leader
of labor on the west coast.
"Can we make an agreement on wages which will
UNITED STATES STILL OWES MONEY 245
remain constant during the construction of the ves-
sels which we have a chance to build?"
"No," said the labor boss. "The sky's the limit.
Well get all we can."
We had to refuse the Government business and
eventually sold the plant back to the Craigs at a
loss, all because labor racketeers were so blind and
greedy as to think that they could make a permanent
gain by robbing their employers. The Government
wanted to stand well with labor and granted every
demand that labor made. The wage-cost rose from 10
per cent in some classes to more than 100 per cent in
others. This lay-down on the part of labor and selfish
political action on the part of the Government was
the first intimation I had had that we were following
the same path that the Bolshevists and communists
of Europe had marked out. We are still following it.
I was bred among mechanics who took a pride in
their work. I am a good mechanic myself. The men I
grew up with were willing to give a fair day's work
for a fair day's pay. They did not spend their time
listening to politicians who kept telling them they
were abused and downtrodden and forgotten and
cheated, nor to labor racketeers who talked as though
the employers were the enemies of their employees.
I detest these skrimshanking belly-achers with all my
heart. The first I saw of this new spirit in labor was
in the Russian Government's New Admiralty Works
at St. Petersburg:
"Something's wrong somewhere," I said to myself.
"We are supposed to be employing fifteen hundred
men, but if we are they are not doing their work.
Let's see about it."
I made the men check in at the door each morning,
and, sure enough, fifteen hundred reported for duty.
But I could not count more than half that many on
the jobs. One day I had the whistle sounded for quit-
ting work, and I watched the yards from a little bal-
cony at the machine-shop. Men crawled out from
abandoned buildings and old lumber-piles like ants
and hurried to check in with the timekeeper. Every
one of the fifteen hundred reported himself at work.
At the time I thought that was a truly Russian trick,
but I was to discover that the American workman has
tricks of his own.
One of the best hustlers I ever saw was an inspec-
tor for the Shipping Board attached to our Bridge-
port shipyards. It was a treat to hear him call up
some drowsy superintendent of transportation and
ask why the hell the stuff that had been ordered had
not been delivered. He had all the weight of the
Government behind him, and he used it to get the
action he wanted.
"I'd like to be your assistant here," he told me.
"Won't you write a letter to Mr. Eades Johnson and
ask permission to take me on?"
I did it. He was a good man. Eades Johnson would
not let me have him, though. "When the Govern-
ment gets a good man, and I know it, I'm going to
try to hold him."
But my friend the inspector did not want to be held
in the government service, but to get into private
UNITED STATES STILL OWES MONEY 247
business, where enterprise might offer higher profits
even at the cost of the Government. Presently things
began to go wrong. Other yards got the lumber and
steel that should have been sent to us. Our accounting
office suddenly slowed up. Unwarranted charges were
made against our building superintendent. So many
queer things happened that I put detectives on the
job and in a little time he found that there was a con-
spiracy to take the yard away from me and turn it over
to one of the inspector's friends on a lo-per-cent cost
basis. That lo-per-cent profit had been originally
promised me, but I did not get it. Maybe I did not
take a hint when it came to me.
Some one in Washington was in the game and my
pay-rolls were held up, so that more than once Ken
McNeill and I had to go to the Bridgeport Trust
Company and borrow the money. Charles M. Schwab
was then in charge of the Emergency Fleet Corpora-
tion in Philadelphia and I went up to see him and
told the story. He put it before a committee. One of
the members of that committee had been friendly
with the very men I distrusted.
"Pooh, pooh," he said. "Nonsense where's the
proof of this silly yarn?"
"I'll show the proof to Mr. Schwab but to no one
We walked into the next room. When we came out
Mr. Schwab said to the committee, "Mr. Lake has
shown me the proof of his assertions. Now I'm going
to ask Mr. Lake what he wants done.
"Send a man up there to take charge and investi-
gate. If he finds what I know he will find I want him
to fire all the crooks."
This was done. Then it was found that the man I
had tried to get away from Eades Johnson and make
my own assistant had been at the bottom of it all.
He had not been long out of the Michigan peniten-
tiary and was wanted in California for murder. The
last I heard of him he was in jail for swindling a
widow. But I will repeat that he was one of the finest
hustlers I've ever known.
The First Cargo-Carrying Submarine
T was Brother Jasper who admitted that "the
world do move/' but an impatient inventor is
apt to think that it moves slowly. No doubt this is
as it should be. If every man with a new idea were to
be given a prompt hearing we would be snowed
under with cockeyed schemes. But at the outbreak
of the World War it seemed to me that the sub-
marine had made good. So far as ruling naval cliques
and the general public were concerned it was still
the pet child of crazy inventors and nothing more.
In England, Admiral Sir Percy Scott had warned
his people that the submarine would ultimately drive
the battleship from the sea. He was a stout man and
a born fighter, and he had all the fighting he wanted
after that. Nothing was too harsh to be said of him
by the other admirals who were asked to contemplate
abandoning their broad quarter-decks for the oily
cubicles of a submarine. The press ridiculed him:
France was doing no more than toy with the under-
sea boats, Italy had had bad luck, and even in Ger-
many Admiral von Tirpitz had not fully grasped the
importance of the new weapon. In the United States
we did not realize that the German submarines might
become murderous raiders of commerce.
I know quite well that thousands o sensational
columns were printed in the newspapers about the
potentialities of the submarine. For all that, I insist
that both writers and readers had their tongues in
their cheeks. The stories offered another pleasant
titillation of the nerves for those who had acquired a
taste for horrors. I agonized desperately. I did not
feel then I do not feel now the slightest responsi-
bility for Germany's use of the submarine, but there
is no blinking the fact that her boats had been built
on my plans. They submerged on level keels and
they carried torpedoes and guns. Diving boats of
the earlier models the boats that leaped into the air
like porpoises, and were almost uncontrollable in
their power dives would have been targets instead
of furies. When the Germans warned the English not
to send the Lusitania out of the harbor of New York
I was alarmed.
"The Germans can sink the Lusitania if they wish
to do so," I warned. "I believe they will."
No one cared what I said.
The British Government defied the submarines.
The United States Government did not take the
threat seriously. The American newspapers were
frankly incredulous. The editors had not yet grasped
the idea that war consists almost entirely of killing
and destruction. The great Lusitania seemed to the
average sea-goer an impregnable fortress by compari-
son with the rusty little craft that slipped along un-
der the surface. The list of passengers on the
Lusitania on her last voyage is proof enough of this
FIRST CARGO-CARRYING SUBMARINE 251
public attitude. We are a cheerful and careless
people, and we refused to believe what we did not
want to believe.
I spent over seven thousand dollars on advertise-
ments before the Lusitania sailed, warning the
United States that I believed the Germans intended
to do what they threatened to do<, and restating my
belief that they would do it. I had money then, more
money than I had ever had, and I was glad to spend
it. It was money thrown away.
The net result of the sinking of the Lusitania, as
it then seemed to me, was an outbreak of indignation
against the Germans, and a very slightly extended
realization of the submarine's power. It was not until
Lieutenant Weddington in two hours sank the Eng-
lish cruisers, Aboukir, Gressy, and Hogue, that the
situation was fully comprehended by naval men.
They had been sneering at the submarine so long
that they had accepted a sneer as an evidence that
battleships could not be harmed. The world public
had long since understood that the submarine could
be an enormously destructive force against merchant-
What neither the public nor the naval experts nor
the ship-building trade have ever understood is that
the submarine may be as useful as a cargo-carrier as
it is as a ship of war.
Even the exploit of the Deutschland did not con-
vince them. Public and naval experts and ship
builders have almost forgotten the Deutschland. Only
the lesson she taught has not been revoked.
CHART SHOWING THE SINKING OF ALLIED AND NEUTRAL
SHIPS IN ONE YEAR OF THE WORLD WAR IN THE AREA
SURROUNDING THE BRITISH ISLES
This remarkable German chart was made public by Lloyd George
during the World War. Each symbol represents a ship sunk by
a German submarine.
FIRST CARGO-CARRYING SUBMARINE 253
I can honestly say that I am the daddy of the
Deutschland. Paul Hilken in 1916 gave me my papers
Hilken was then the agent for the North German
Lloyd Line in Baltimore. The Deutschland had just
reached American shores on the first of her two
cargo-carrying voyages. It was in fact the first voyage
of a cargo-carrying submarine in the history of the
world. The English had been thrown into a frenzy
by her success, for it indicated that a break in the
blockade of the German ports might be possible.
American public opinion was turning against Ger-
many, partly because of her ruthless destruction of
unarmed ships and, of course, very largely because of
the English control of most sources of news and propa-
ganda. Americans, however, were tremendously ex-
cited by the exploit of the Deutschland under Cap-
tain Koenig. We are a sporting people at heart. The
newspapers had carried the story that the Deutsch-
land was in Chesapeake Bay on her way to the North
German Lloyd docks at Baltimore. I telephoned my
attorney and asked him to go with me to Baltimore.
"I want to take a look at the Deutschland" I said.
"Maybe I can tie her up on a libel."
We boarded a motor-boat and met the submarine
as she made her way slowly up the Patapsco River.
The moment I noted her buoyant superstructure I
said to the lawyer, "That's an infringement on my
patents. I can prove it. Let's seize her."
I did not propose this action as a partisan of the
Allies, but as a business man who had been given
an elaborate trimming by the Germans. They had
spied on my actions in Germany, read my letters,
stolen my plans, and finally refused to pay me royalty
because I had not been financially able to take out
letters patent in Germany. I know quite well that
this refusal to pay royalties was within the letter of
the law, but I still insist that perfectly honorable
men would not have given me such shabby treat-
ment. I was helpless against them in Germany, of
course, but it seemed to me that I should be able to
seize the Deutschland in American waters on the
ground that she was a pirate of my patents.
"I'll look up the statutes/' said my lawyer. "You've
put a question to me I cannot answer off hand."
"While you're at work on the books I'll call on
Captain Koenig. I want to congratulate him on his
The Deutschland was berthed between a large
steamship and the dock, and a fence had been built
to keep visitors away. Plenty of volunteers could
have been found in those days to plant a bomb in
her. A cordon of police surrounded a roped-off area
into which no one was allowed to enter without a pass.
On the water side other police kept up a constant
watch. The officer in command of these arrangements
was hard-boiled, as was quite right, and it took time
and a heavy argument before I could persuade him
to send my card in to the North German Lloyd's
offices. Word came at once that I was to come in, and
I was greeted by Captain Hinsch, who was in com-
SIMON LAKE WITH CAPTAIN KOENIG, COMMANDER OF
Simon Lake is second from the left; Captain Koenig third from the
left. This historic picture was taken shortly after the arrival of
the Deutschland on her first trip to this country.
FIRST CARGO-CARRYING SUBMARINE 255
mand of the steamer berthed alongside the undersea
"But yes," said Hinsch, "of course you must see
Koenig. He will be so pleased."
Koenig was surrounded by a congratulating group
of important German-Americans. I told him that I
was greatly pleased by his success. It had long been a
contention of mine that submarines could be effec-
tually used as cargo-carriers, and he had demonstrated
under the most threatening circumstances possible
that I was right.
"It was easy," said Koenig modestly. "Even on the
surface we lie so low that surface ships can hardly
see us, and when we found ourselves too near enemies
for comfort we just submerged and lay quiet until
they had moved on. We were only compelled to do
eighty miles under water."
"I have another purpose in coming to see you," I
said. "I know that the Deutschland has been built in
evasion of my patents. If I can prove this is so I
propose to attach her."
At this point Paul Hilken spoke up: "You wouldn't
do that. She's your baby."
Then he told the story. During my residence in
Germany I had been the guest of honor at a dinner
given by the North German Lloyd at Bremerhaven,
and had spoken on the future of the submarine. No
one thought of war at that time, except as every
intelligent man in Europe knew that sooner or later
war was inevitable. I made a long talk on the use of
the submarine in cargo-carrying, stressing its invisi-
bility, its inaudibility under proper direction, and
the fact that its cargo-carrying capacity is equal to
that of surface ships, ton for ton.
"Do you remember Lohman?" Hilken asked me.
"He sat beside you at that dinner."
Lohman was then a director of the North German
Lloyd, and he had been very courteous in showing
me through the ship-building plant. We had a con-
versation of several hours in which we discussed the
various phases of submarine construction. Later Loh-
man became president of the company.
"When the war broke out," said Hilken, "I got a
letter from Lohman: 'Get hold of Lake and offer
him whatever is necessary to get him to come to Ger-
many and direct the building of a fleet of cargo-
I was then hard at work for the Government and
Hilken did not venture to open a conversation with
me. He did not know where my sympathies might
lie as between the Allies and Germany, and the plan
to build cargo-submarines was a closely guarded
secret. Hilken was by profession a naval architect. In
the United States there have never been many mili-
tary secrets, so in one way and another he was able
to get a lot of information about my plans for cargo-
submarines. He took it to Germany with him, where
it was added to the plans I had previously drawn
and turned over to the Germans. As a result, the
Deutschland and her sister ship, the Bremen, were
FIRST CARGO-CARRYING SUBMARINE
"You see," Hilken beamed at me, "you would do
nothing to injure your own child."
"If the Deutschland were a war-ship I'd darned
well try to do something," I replied. "But my sympa-
thies are with the women and children who are made
to suffer by reason of the blockade England is carry-
ing on. And what's more, Hilken, we're still a neutral
country, and my American blood boils when I read
that England is commandeering or sinking our ships
engaged in a peaceful trade with a friendly nation/'
"Would you be willing to help Germany in her
"Germany or any other country, so long as the
United States is friendly."
Hilken turned to his companions at table and spoke
in German. One of them, I noticed, seemed to have a
great deal of authority. The others deferred to him
with every evidence of humility.
Hilken turned to me again. "I am authorized to
make you a proposition. If you will organize an
American company to build submarines with cargo-
carrying capacity of five thousand tons, we will
finance it." The Deutschland carried only about six
"Ill agree in principle," I replied, "subject to fur-
ther consideration and negotiation."
"It's a bargain. We will cable Germany at once for
authority to go ahead along these lines."
The next three days were spent in discussion, al-
though our time was somewhat broken in on by
Baltimore's hospitable hosts and her indomitable re-
porters, who lionized Captain Koenig until he would
have run and hid if there had been any place to run
to. He was a modest and self-effacing gentleman, who
did not seem to realize that he had made one of his-
tory's not-to-be-forgotten voyages. I was made a not
altogether unwilling participant in this, for I ad-
mired Koenig sincerely. When Dan Willard, presi-
dent of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, asked me
to stand with Koenig for a photograph on the site
of the building from which Morse sent his first tele-
graphic message to Washington, and near-by the dock
at which my first Argonaut was launched, I was de-
Koenig slipped through the blockade near the
mouth of Chesapeake Bay, which the Allies had
established within about forty yards of the three-mile
limit. He later returned to the United States with
another cargo, and got safely home again. In the
meantime, my plans for building the cargo-carrying
fleet were progressing nicely, and on September 22,
1916, Paul Hilken wrote me at New London that
the Bremen was due in a few days, and that she
would bring with her a credit of ten million dollars,
with which we could start operations. The Bremen
never arrived. There has never been an authenticated
explanation of her fate. She may have fallen victim
to the allied fleet or struck a mine or been blown
up by a depth bomb. It is quite as probable that her
bones rest on the sea floor for reasons which had
their origin inside her skin. I have never seen' the
plans on which the Bremen was built. It may be that
FIRST CARGO-CARRYING SUBMARINE 259
the engineers made a mistake during the process of
working over my plans. The building may have been
scamped or hurried. There may have been a careless
man aboard, or a fool A careless man is a fool, of
course, whether he is in a submarine or a subway.
But the loss of the Bremen put an end to our plans
for building a cargo-carrying fleet of submarines.
American sympathies were now definitely veering in
favor of the Allies. Our injuries at the hands of Great
Britain were forgotten because of the greater injuries
we suffered at Germany's hands. I could not have
gone on with the plans we had made even if I had
been disposed to do so for it was becoming apparent
that the United States was moving toward a declara-
tion of war. I got my affairs in hand, for it seemed
to me that the United States would not only want
military submarines that was to be taken for granted
but that the value of the cargo-carrying submarine
had been magnificently demonstrated and it was this
type in which I have always been interested. I took
the matter up with the Navy Department.
"It is no part of our business to build cargo-
carriers," I was told. "We are only interested in war-
I went to the United States Shipping Board,
"That's fine," the spokesman for the Board told
me. "We'll go into this. We think we'll need you."
British Sentimentality Pays Dividends
old-style knee-and-thumb fighters used to
have a bar-room battle-cry:
Wild and woolly hard to curry,
Never was tickled below the knees.
That defines precisely the spirit in which the
United States went into the War. Europeans must
have looked on us as a nation of idiots. Operating
on that theory they did some things to us which seem
to prove it. We loaned millions to nations that could
not have borrowed a dime at a bank if they had put
up their crown jewels. We got into the most absurd
situations. We talked of liberty and we actually fed
our enemies. We closed our eyes to the fact that we
had been robbed by our own allies while we were
trying to get them out of the hole they had dug
themselves, and then gave them millions of dollars
for which they were not even grateful. The funny
thing is that, silly as we unquestionably were, we
were right all the time. Our tactics were deplorable
but our strategy was superb. If we had fought our
part of the war on the cautious, nickel-nursing,
double-crossing lines followed by the Allies we
would all have been licked.
BRITISH SENTIMENTALITY PAYS
We won the war, and by that I mean that the
Allies and Associated Powers won it, because after
the United States got in the Americans stopped
counting costs either in money or men, so long as
they could save time and gain ground.
Our folly, and tactically we played the fool, is easy
enough to understand. Compared to the Europeans
we were a nation of rich young men, full of beans,
spoiling for a fight or a frolic, and confident that
Dad could get us out of any trouble we got into. In
the one hundred and fifty years of our history we
had looted a continent stuffed with treasures. We
knew ourselves to be safe from invasion for the
windy nonsense the English talked of danger to us
in the event of a German victory only impressed a
weak-minded few we could not be starved, and we
were almost unbearably chesty about our money and
money and our brains and our inventions. The war
had been so far away from us in miles and sentiment
that we did not know what it all meant. No European
nation could have lasted six weeks the way we
Yet we were right all the time, strategically. In
the matter of tactics we had the brains of geese.
My first understanding that we were out to win
the war by spending money, siphoned through the
usual business channels, came to me through my
friend Hart O. Berg. He had been my agent in Russia
and on the continent of Europe. It was Berg who
launched the Wright brothers on their successful
career in France, he had the confidence of the
French Government, and he knew what was the air
situation in Europe. That was, to brief it, a combat
between individual men and planes under conditions
that changed almost hourly. To-day's best plane
might be a second-rater to-morrow. The Europeans
knew better than to go in for mass production of
planes. Their aim, on both sides, was to make to-day
a plane that was a little faster and more maneuver-
able than the enemy's best. In a sense they made
only one plane at a time. That is not literally true,
but it is illustratively accurate. Soon after we en-
tered the war Berg came to the United States.
"I have a chance to do something for my country,"
he told me. "The French have given me the plans for
their best plane, which we can use to start our fleet.
As fast as they make better planes they will send
me the plans."
In a few days he came in to see me again. He had
taken his hopes and his plans to Washington.
"I'm sailing for France," he said. "At first the au-
thorities would not listen to me. Then they insulted
me. 'We're going to build some real planes/ they
said. 'Hundreds of thousands of them.' They do not
know one little thing about how this war is being
I will not rehearse the follies of that silly season,
except as they affect my own story. The German
submarines were knocking down allied shipping
until England really feared starvation. There seemed
to be no way of checking them. It was then we began
to build green-pine ships that could hardly have held
BRITISH SENTIMENTALITY PAYS 263
together through a storm, and concrete horse-troughs
with engines in them. Some unlimited ass coined the
slogan: "Well build ships faster than the Germans
can sink them," and Americans thought it showed a
Yet the Americans were right, foolish as they were,
for that spirit won the war. In the end we over-
whelmed the Germans by sheer weight and speed.
When the Navy Department refused to listen to my
suggestion that cargo-carrying submarines be built in
which supplies could be carried in relative safety to
England and France, I went to the United States
Shipping Board and at the outset was well received.
Denman was then chairman.
"Let's have in the experts," he said. "I like your
idea, but let's see if the experts like it."
We spent almost an entire night with the experts
and convinced them that cargo-carrying submarines
were feasible. It is not possible, of course, to compare
a military submarine with a cargo-carrier. The pur-
pose and lines and equipment are different. But any
one must see that a ship rides on its submerged
body. All that portion of the ship which is above the
water-line does nothing to keep the ship afloat. In
passenger ships wide decks and airy cabins are de-
manded and ships of war must have height above
water for the gun platforms and spacious quarters
for the men, munitions, and the like, not to speak
of handsome cabins for the captains. A submarine
could never be comfortable for passenger carrying
by comparison to the Queen Marys and Normandies,
but, weight for weight, a submarine cargo-carrier can
be shown to be safer in operation and more economi-
cal to run in peace-time than the ordinary surface
"Get ready to build, Mr. Lake," said Denman.
I had taken with me to Washington a model of
a submarine cargo-carrier capable of carrying 7,500
tons of cargo at a total load displacement of 11,500
tons, or about 65 per cent of her displacement. In
comparison with a surface ship a cargo-carrying sub-
marine can be built which will carry a greater per-
centage of cargo on an equivalent surface displace-
ment of ship, machinery, and contents. Of course,
when the submarine is submerged her displacement
is temporarily augmented by the water ballast taken
in, but it seems to me this is better than to lose the
ship. But this is becoming too technical, although I
may suggest that naval architects examine these state-
ments instead of merely closing their eyes and ears
as most of them do.
"We'll build one hundred," said Denman.
I went out on a round-up of mills and boiler-shops
and gas-tank builders, prefatory to beginning the
work of building. It is possible to standardize every-
thing when operating on such a huge scale. The parts
needed can be made at a score of places and centered
at a shipyard to be put together. That is a rough
statement of the proposed plan, of course, but it is
sufficient, for before I was ready to report to Den-
man there had been a split and the organization
was divided into the United States Shipping Board
BRITISH SENTIMENTALITY PAYS 265
and the Emergency Fleet Corporation. General
Goethals was at the head of the Emergency Fleet
"You'll have to see him," said Denman. "Sell him
your idea. The Fleet Corporation will be in charge
Goethals was stand-offish at first.
"But come in to-night/' he said at last. "Ill go
over your plans with the chief engineer."
By dawn Goethals and the chief engineer were
seeing eye-to-eye with me.
"But this is an experiment." General Goethals was
right in being cautious. "We'll not start off with
one hundred cargo-carrierswell build six instead."
That suited me. Some of the cloud effects were
fading out, but, after all, six cargo-carriers were more
than the world had ever had, and they would be my
creation. I began the job under a heavy head of
steam. I was only fifty-one years old, I had an abun-
dance of energy, and this was really the first time
that a government department had shown a disposi-
tion to cooperate heartily with me. I had my plans
and prices ready to submit and had recast my par-
tially completed preliminary report, when the Ship-
ping Board ,and the Emergency Fleet Corporation
parted company and Denman and Goethals both re-
signed. My proposition went into the hands of a
body the deadliness of which might be guessed at
from its name: "A Committee on Standard Ship Con-
On August 8, 1917, I received a letter from this
board: "We do not consider it advisable to construct
ships of this type at this time."
The committee has always been anonymous. I
never learned the names of its members and the
letter was signed, "The Secretary of the Committee."
I am frankly more than a little savage about this,
for I am as sure now, after twenty years more of deal-
ing with submarines, as I was then, that the cargo-
carrier offered a way out of the very dangerous hole in
which the Allies and ourselves had been dropped by
the German attack. It seemed to me then, and it still
seems to me, that the refusal of the committee to
adopt my idea was due primarily to that dull resist-
ance to anything new the inventor is forever encoun-
tering. The man who invented a ladder must have
been stared down by his associates, and the first man
to think of a wheel probably starved in a gutter. My
anger at this committee mounts higher when I recall
that it was this body of undoubtedly excellent
men which embarked on the green-wood and con-
crete-ship campaign a little later.
But at the time I accepted the disappointment as
I had accepted others in the past. The way of a man
with a maid is not half so marvelous as the way of
a government committee with anything that per-
tains to submarines. I think that in 1917 our com-
mitteemen still thought of a submarine as either
impossible or else the production of black magic. I
dismissed my hopes and set about organizing the
Housatonic Ship-building Company, of which I have
BRITISH SENTIMENTALITY PAYS 267
One of the funny incidents of this period came
out of a conversation with Senator Ben Tillman.
"Ben," I said to him one day, "every man who can
read a blue-print is making some invention or other
at this time and some of them are certain to be
valuable. Don't you think the issuance of patents
should be suspended? If papers are filed, you know,
some one will get at them and in the end the enemy
"Good idea, Lake. I'll see to it."
I patted myself on the back. I might not have won
the Government over to my idea about submarine
cargo-carriers, but this little idea about protecting
the inventive brains of the country from being rifled
by the enemy might be even more profitable in the
long run. Then a few days later I received an impera-
tive note from the Department of Justice, and I could
feel my red hair beginning to prickle on my neck.
The Department spoke, as all government depart-
ments always do speak to the citizen, in the most
dictatorial and imperative terms:
"The patents you have applied for will not be is-
"Further, you are hereby forbidden to reveal any
information under penalty of a fine which may be
$10,000 and imprisonment."
I got my breath back after a time and reflected
that this note was wholly impersonal. All the thou-
sands of men who had been inventing things in the
hope of aiding their country had been similarly
rapped on the wrist and most of them would get mad
just as I had done and then get back to work just
as I would do. For the remainder of the war I devoted
a good deal of my time to considering underwater
listening and protective devices and other things use-
ful to my submersible pets. Some of the things I
worked out then could not be used. I have never
patented them because a patent would inevitably fall
into the hands of the representatives of other coun-
tries and I believe the time will come when they
will be extremely valuable. In the meantime I am
the only one who has the secrets.
It was while I was so engaged that I received an
offer from my old friend Charles R. Flint for which
no explanation has ever been made. He asked me
to come and see him in New York:
"Simon," he asked, "are you free to sign a con-
"What kind of a contract?"
"I cannot tell you. But you know you can rely
on me. I am empowered to offer you two and a half
million dollars cash and twenty-five thousand dollars
a year for a period of fifteen years. You will place
yourself at the complete disposition of myself and
That was a little too much for me. There was too
much money, too much secrecy, too much uncer-
tainty where I would head in and who would do
the handling. I refused to give Flint a reply off hand
for the very good reason that I was somewhat fright-
ened and more than a little puzzled, and called on
Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels with my tale.
BRITISH SENTIMENTALITY PAYS 269
"Don't sign it, Simon/' said he. "I'm puzzled by
it, too, for there is something behind it that is not
being shown. And we are at war and we need you.
Let this queer thing alone."
It has never bothered me to think that two and
a half million dollars slipped through my fingers nor
that for fifteen years I might have drawn the very
pleasing sum of twenty-five thousand dollars each
year. But I am curious. I wish I could find out what
Flint was up to and who were his associates. I have
made many wild guesses but not one that seemed
even remotely plausible and Flint would never tell,
up to the day of his death. He was a queer, hard
man, but he was an interesting associate and a good
friend. He always kept his word and he was gen-
erous and kind in his personal relations, but I have
no difficulty in imagining that there might be occa-
sions when he would be pitiless and even cruel.
When the war ended I thought the submarine
had been established as a marine weapon. Not one
allied soldier had landed on German shores and this
was at least in part due to the allied fear of the sub-
marine. It had proven its value as a raider of com-
merce and the great fleets of battleships had been
shown up as mere coveys of steel hulks. Every naval
officer knows in his heart, no matter what he may
say, that no battleship could cross the seas if the
enemy had submarines. These great machines ac-
tually detract from the defensive strength of the
nation that possesses them, for they not only im-
mobilize men and are mere swamps into which
munitions sink, but they take other men from the
fighting forces to protect them.
All these things were true then and they are quite
as true to-day. It seemed evident to me then, just
as it seems evident now, that the submarine is not
only the most effective arm at sea, but that by its
efficiency it becomes a great instrument for peace.
But I did not reckon with England.
England lives on its ocean freight-carrying busi-
ness. If England could abolish the submarine and
continue to hold the seas with her fleet of battle-
ships and cruisers her position as Mistress of the
Seas would continue to be unassailable. The Eng-
lish need clicked with the glary-eyed idealism of the
Americans. We were tired of war, sick of the sound
of the words, weary of the smell of blood, disgusted
with the greed and barbarism of both sides, and
anxious to get back to the pleasant shades of senti-
ment and the unrealistic talk of brotherly love and
universal democracy. President Harding called his
It was the most complete triumph of romance over
the harder facts of life I have ever known. But the
romance was confined to the Americans. We eat it up
professors, old ladies, sororities, editors, Kiwanis
Clubs, Congressmen. There should never be any
more war, every nation should have a cote filled with
peace doves, swords should be hammered into plow-
shares, and mercy and loving-kindness should cover
the earth. We completely forgot that we were plan-
ning all these good things for the human race, which
BRITISH SENTIMENTALITY PAYS
has not changed materially within the range of re-
corded history. The American thought was to do a
sweet thing on a great scale. The English idea was
to get rid of the submarine.
I have the warmest admiration for the British dip-
lomats. They can deal in the loftiest sentiments in
the most moving terms, but they never tear up a
mortgage. They honestly believe that what is best
for Great Britain is best for the world, and I will
not argue this point, for it may be true. I could only
wish that our diplomats might be inspired along the
same lines for I likewise feel that what is bad for the
United States will prove to be very bad for the world.
But in this matter of submarines I felt that Eng-
land's statesmen had not taken a really broad view.
They still flinched when they thought of what the
German submersibles had done, and they had so suf-
fered during the war that they were still moved by
their hearts rather than their heads. If they had rea-
soned out the problem they would see that in the
next great war England's provisioning will depend
on cargo-carrying submersibles. For in the next great
war surface ships will simply disappear. At least that
is my belief. The safety of England's shores will rest
not on her battleships and cruisers but on her
Therefore I addressed a letter to Lord Balfour, the
head of the British delegation to the Peace Confer-
ence, and will quote a pertinent paragraph or two:
I believe that I understand and sympathize with your
view that if the submarine could be eliminated alto-
gether it would be to England's advantage If the
submarine could be eliminated entirely and Mr.
Hughes's proposal carried out in other respects it would
be a wonderful feather in the cap of British diplomacy.
As I have great respect for the English ability to "put
things over" by their experienced diplomats and as I can
see their handiwork appearing in the numerous edi-
torials in certain of our important journals that are said
to be under English influence, I appeal to you rather
than to our own representatives in the Conference.
I hope that I may succeed in convincing you that
it is not to England's advantage to do away with the
submarine, even if the immediate effect would be, if
the program were to be carried out in other respects, to
give England an immediate advantage over the United
States. As I understand the Hughes proposal regard-
ing capital ships, England's policy of having the largest
navy in the world would be reestablished for the next
few years at least.
I recapitulated the arguments in favor of the sub-
An analysis of the facts would prove that because of
the introduction of the submarine many fewer lives were
lost than would have been lost if the surface navies
had met and fought as they were designed to do. The
submarine undoubtedly prevented the bombardment of
coast cities, and most of the crews of the merchantmen
captured and destroyed were permitted to escape
This letter was sent also to all the other diplomats
attending the Peace Conference. Most of them re-
plied courteously. Some of them admitted the weight
of my arguments. Lord Balfour did not reply.
So far as influencing the direction of affairs I might
BRITISH SENTIMENTALITY PAYS
have saved my ink. I might also have reflected that
man cannot by statute and agreement change the
course of events. Gunpowder was denounced by the
men in armor but the world accepted it. Sailors
stormed about steam-power. It has been proven by
the most convincing argument that iron ships can-
not sail the sea. The story of the years which have
followed the Peace Conference shows that subma-
rines have come to stay. The doubter is advised to
find the facts for himself in any newspaper file of
C H AFTER XXVI
Society for the Protection of Inventors
BALFOUR and England did not wholly have
their way. The submarine was not barred,
for the smaller nations refused to have such a cheap
and efficient means of defense taken from them.
But England and Balfour and the raging sentimen-
talists with whom we are afflicted in America did
persuade the United States to scrap a large part of
its fleet and to stop making appropriations for the
building of submarines. That finished the Lake Tor-
pedo Boat Company.
We had shown the world how to build submarines.
After the European countries had adopted the Lake
designs we had been able to break through the bar-
riers set up by high finance and our own country
accepted the boats we had been trying to press on
it for years. We were in a position to build subma-
rines for commercial purposes and ultimately such
submarines will be built. We had spent more than
one million dollars in our experiments. At times we
had employed over five thousand men at our Bridge-
port plant, more than two thousand men at our
Housatonic yards, and over fifteen hundred at Long
Beach, California. We had a plant investment of
more than two and a half million dollars at Bridge-
PROTECTION OF INVENTORS
port, we did not owe a penny, and we had nine hun-
dred thousand dollars cash in bank, not to speak of
a considerable sum the Government owed us. But no
orders were in sight, and it was costing us fifty thou-
sand dollars a year to keep up our Bridgeport plant,
exclusive of the inevitable depreciation of the
physical properties* So we decided to close down, pay
off part of our first preferred stock, and quit. I
wanted our directors to start building commercial
submarines, but Lebbeus Miller and his son Her-
bert S. Miller were dead and no one else cared to
No hard feelings. I've had a good time.
During the seven years ending in 1923, when our
submarine building came to an end, I had been en-
gaged in many things. I barely missed making an
accidental fortune in California. Fred B. Whitney,
of Waukegan, Illinois, had been our attorney for
years, and during the period in which we were op-
erating the Long Beach plant we occasionally dined
with William C. Foley, manager of the plant, and
one of the most competent hull men in the country.
He had a cottage on the beach overlooking the har-
bor. A high, roundish hill furnished a pleasant
background. Whitney knew of my liking for high
places, and one evening he said, "Simon, I know
you like to live on a hill from which you can over-
look the sea. I've an option on the top of that hill
yonder. Why don't you let me take it up and build
a bungalow? You would enjoy life up there."
"But I don't want to live in California. The coun-
try is dry as a bone, there has been no rain for
months, there is nothing green to rest the eye. I
want to get back to Connecticut as soon as I can and
look at the grass and trees."
That option I refused was for a part of the top
of Signal Hill. More oil has been taken out from
under the hill than from any other territory of
the same area in the world. I have never regretted
missing that money, but I think Whitney was dis-
pleased, and I am sure he was disgusted later on
when I refused to retire merely because I had a for-
During this period I was coaxed into an experi-
ment with applied efficiency that in the end turned
fairly sour. My technical staff was an excellent one,
and I had been able to shift my attention from the
operating details to some extent. When I was in
direct control of the plant I had managed to get
along nicely with two or three bookkeepers. I knew
my men and I was "Simon" to the old-timers. When
we wanted a nut or a bolt we went to the bin and
got it. My efficiency experts put in a crew of special-
ists who got in every one's way. The paper work
was complicated enough for an army. A workman
hunting a bolt had to sign a requisition and give
receipts and waste enough time to pay for it twenty
times over. I do not think I have patience enough
to monkey around with efficiency systems. Give me
good men and a good plant and I'll be satisfied.
I was more or less on the loose. Plenty of money,
lots of time, a good business with excellent pros-
PROTECTION OF INVENTORS 277
pects, and ideas sparking every day. As long as I
was at work I was happy. It was only when I tried
to enjoy myself that I was miserable.
One of the things that I got into was the National
Institute of Inventors. The idea was a good one. It
had been in my mind for years. No men in the
world need protection, guidance, moral, and, at
times, financial support more than do inventors. But
the way in which the idea was worked out was some-
where between ludicrous and infuriating. It was a
further evidence, if any were needed, that inventors
should be provided with guards and nurses.
I am speaking with very deep earnestness in this.
All my life I have been an inventor. I have learned
to accept the fact that a new idea that in any way
departs from the routine of life will be repelled by
the public. This is no doubt a phase of the protec-
tive machinery of society. The too ready acceptance
of new things would make society even more light-
minded and hair-brained than it now is. But a man
with a new idea should not be regarded as a public
enemy. He should be granted a hearing, and if his
invention is worth-while he should be protected in
its possession and helped in its development.
As matters stand to-day a greenhorn inventor may
find himself working on some scheme that has been
public property for half a century. If he has really
struck into new territory he may fall into the hands
of a shyster lawyer, who thinks only of the money
he can wring out of the poor devil. If he escapes
these early perils a promoter may get hold of him
and either waste his money or steal his invention.
I he dodges the promoter and tries to interest pos-
sible backers on his own, he will be turned back
by cigarette-yellowed office-boys and frozen by blonde
transparencies. I knew the troubles of the inventors,
and as one of the guild I hoped to lessen them.
During the World War, Secretary of the Navy
Daniels had moved toward the control of inventions
and the protection of inventors. He appointed a
civilian board to look into the merit of inventions
offered the country, but this was of necessity a war-
time measure only. I hoped to see this expanded
into a permanent peace-time structure, entirely apart
from the armed services. My own experiences, in
fact, led me to agree with Secretary Daniels in his
estimate of the war and army leaders. He said to
"One of the troubles is that we send young men
to the military establishments maintained by the
Government to gain knowledge qualifying them to
become officers. When they come out of such estab-
lishments they think the knowledge they have
gained is all the knowledge there is, and that any-
thing they do not know is not knowledge."
In 1919, then, with the war back of us and most
of us still filled with the fervor created by war, I
was ready to go on with my plan for a Society of
Inventors. But my hands and my heart were full of
other things, and it was only now and then in talk
with my own kind that the plan came up. It was
PROTECTION OF INVENTORS
at this time that I was invited to attend a dinner
given at the Hotel Astor, for the purpose of dis-
cussing the formation of such a society. Among the
guests at the dinner were some of the most widely
known men in the field. A temporary organization
was formed. Some of us put in enough money to
cover the initial expenses of rent and printing and
stenography. A man who had been running a little
magazine devoted to invention was made temporary
chairman. He had an abundance of energy and plenty
of smart ideas, and presently he had a society on
paper that looked like the realization of our
I had money then, plenty of it, and this scheme
had been close to my heart for many years. I sent
in a check for $500 as I remember possibly only
$250 with the assurance that more would be forth-
coming. The plan was to have a library and a labora-
tory, and research and legal bureaus, so that inventors
suffering from intellectual birth-pains could find
out what might be the prospects of the child. I
had determined to put in a quarter of a million dol-
lars, and many others were equally willing to stand
their share. Then we found we were in the hands
of a crook. Dr, William M. Grosvenor made the
"Our president's real name," he told me, "is not
whatever he called himself. He is a professional ras-
cal. So is his partner. The constitution and agree-
ment he has drawn up would put all control in his
So we dropped that matter. I do not recall what
happened to the president. I have a vague recollection
that he hooted and bawled around for a time, in the
hope that he might get a little more money out of
us, but we were all busy men and we simply forgot
him. He got away with the money we had put up,
of course, but that did not bother us. No man should
have enough leisure time to spend it in crying over
spilt milk. But if he had been as honest as he
seemed to be competent, a magnificent thing would
have been done for American invention. We had
planned to raise a fund of $50,000,000 and I have
no doubt that we could have done it. It is not too
late to attempt the same thing to-day. Some one
should do it.
There were plenty of other things with which to
occupy myself. In 1912 I had built a dredge for
purposes of recovering gold from river bottoms, and
it worked but I had bad luck with it. I placed it
in a North Carolina river-bed in which enough color
had been found to promise profitable exploitation
if the dredge were as successful as I believed it would
be. We just had it in place and had begun work
when one of the southern floods roared down the
river and carried the dredge away. I was absent at
the time, but the man in charge said the flood rose
eighteen feet in two hours and swept the dredge
over a dam, lodging it in the middle of a swamp. I
had no time to fool with it then, for I was busily
engaged in building submarines, but I held it in
PROTECTION OF INVENTORS %8l
memory. When I developed a little leisure I began
to play again with the thought of dredging for gold.
Perhaps, I am not sure, my interest was reawakened
by a talk I had with Herbert Hoover. We were lunch-
ing at the Engineers' Club and the talk turned to
his mining operations.
"I wish I had a good dredging outfit," he said,
"for there is a fortune to be made in Russia. I know
of sands in the Lena delta which run two hundred
and fifty dollars to the yard."
I knew that Hoover knew his Russia, but for all
that it seemed to me that two hundred and fifty
dollars to the yard is a good many dollars. A little
later, though, I had lunch with an associate of John
"I have heard of sands that run two hundred and
fifty dollars to the yard," I said, "but I hesitate to
believe that. One yard might run two hundred and
fifty dollars, but a delta full of two hundred and
fifty dollar yards is more than I can stomach."
He said I didn't know what I was talking about.
"I know seven hundred dollar sand," he said.
Every one knows how the gold production in Rus-
sia has jumped up in the last few years, especially
since the United States Government began to buy
all the gold available in order to line a hole in Ken-
tucky. It may be that these tales were founded on
fact. They steamed me up, in any event, and I built
a gold-washing machine that is better by test than
any in use to-day. I tried it out with fifty pieces of
gold, ranging in size from a mere flake to a nugget
the size o a marble, and ran them through the
washed sands time after time. I sometimes failed to
recover the fifty on one operation, but I never failed
to get the fifty on repeat. When I stopped my experi-
ments I had my original fifty pieces. Armed with
this information I adapted the idea to the submarine
tube I had used successfully in wreck-salvaging oper-
One of these days, when I am not busy on some-
thing else, I'll get it to work on the gold-bearing
sands along the Alaskan coast. I know quite well
that dredging operations have failed there, and I
know why they have failed. The dredgers don't
know, but I do. I can put a pump in a submarine,
so that I will have both atmospheric and hydrostatic
pressures to work with and I'll get the gold out of
Between times I grew interested in a plan to put
up prefabricated houses at a cost that the workman
can afford. The idea first came to me during a trip
across on the old Lusitania. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph
Fels were on board and we fell into talk.
He was a philanthropist, the manufacturer of a
widely used soap, and was so much interested in
the need for decent and permanent housing for the
working class that he had financed the building of
a model village in England. Fels then used precisely
the same arguments that are now accepted for the
erection of cheap housing. Later I met some gentle-
men at the home of Charles R. Flint, among whom
PROTECTION OF INVENTORS 283
were Joseph Fels, and William M. Ivens. We talked
around and about plans for improving the slum areas,
but nothing came of it. However, the thing stuck in
my mind. It seemed to me that any plan for cheap
housing must possess five qualifications: The house
must be cheap, comfortable, convenient in every way,
good to look at, and permanent.
I came to the conclusion that the only way in
which this important question could be solved was
to abandon the old-fashioned way of putting a house
together, piece by piece, on the spot, and assemble
its parts on the Ford plan. Ultimately I invented
a double-insulated wall, which could be cast in a
factory, shipped on a truck, and hung in place by
an ordinary caterpillar crane. The Patent Office
granted me basic patents on features of this inven-
tion, and a test running as far back as 1918, when
my first experimental house was built in Milford,
proves that I was on the right track. Under the
New Deal I offered the use of these patents to the
Federal authorities through President Roosevelt
and Senator Wagner, but nothing came of it.
The obstacle that I met from the outset was the
fear on the part of organized labor that the building
trade unions would lose work if prefabricated houses
were erected on any large scale. I believe that this
is a false assumption. That a few men would suffer is
true, but the advantage to the labor body as a whole
seems to me to be very great. I have convinced a
few labor leaders of this, but others have not been
able to recognize that, for every man laid off. in one
particular trade, many more jobs would be avail-
able for other tradesmen, and labor as a whole would
benefit because of the cheaper and better housing
which would be provided.
Freight- and Passenger-Carrying Subma-
rines in the Future
I AM confident that one of these days I will be
able to walk along the cargo docks and see
freight packages plainly labeled: "Ship by subma-
For freight- and passenger-carrying submarine
routes are certain to be established sometime. That
certainty of the future is casting its shadow on us
just as the coming of the airplane and the electric
light and radio communication and all the other
great advances of our age were signaled in advance.
The Wright brothers and Thomas Edison and
Guglielmo Marconi did not realize, perhaps, how
great was the world's need for these commonplaces
of to-day. Henry Ford did not think he was making
over the United States when he tinkered with a gaso-
line engine in a rickety shop. But they kept on put-
tering around and were laughed at and suddenly
their nonsensical ideas became a part of modern life.
Freight- and passenger-carrying submarines will
come into use because they are a step ahead of the
surface ships of to-day, just as the first wheezy, stut-
tering steam-engines furnished a better source of
power than blindfolded horses walking around a
Trade routes will be established between Euro-
pean and Oriental and Russian ports, and some of
our Northern Pacific ports. The distances now cov-
ered by some lines using the Suez and Panama canals
will be almost cut in two. I have previously shown
that a submarine is at an advantage as compared
with a surface ship because it is relieved of so much
dead-weight. In time of storm it need only submerge
to a zone of quiet. In good weather it will ride the
waves just as the Deutschland did when Captain
Koenig brought her over. Even in the midst of war
he only found it necessary to do eighty miles sub-
Not the least of its advantages is that a submarine
can enter ice-bound ports. Vladivostok need never
again be closed by the Russian winter. Travel under
the ice is more comfortable and safer than bucking
winter seas. That has been shown. This is not in-
tended as a bit of sensationalism. It is a simple state-
ment of fact. It is probably true that the reader will
recoil at the mere thought of a voyage in the depths
of the sea, a lid of ice overhead, in a blind boat that
cannot see a foot ahead of its nose and must steer
by its instruments. The uninformed will think of
such a voyage as the ultimate in reckless folly and
soggy, chill discomfort. Yet it would be neither dan-
gerous nor uncomfortable. The one very doubtful
pleasure the winter voyager would be forced to
forego would be his morning constitutional on a
SUBMARINES IN THE FUTURE 287
deck heaped with ice and swept by furious waves.
In 1898 I appeared before the faculty of the Johns
Hopkins University and advocated the building of
a submarine for use under the ice. I was ahead of
my time, for the submarine had not then been
brought to its present efficiency, but my argument
holds good to-day. Nansen had just returned from
eighteen months on the arctic ice in an effort to
reach the north pole, and reported that he found no
ice more than fourteen feet thick. He had averaged
only three-quarters of a mile a day, because he con-
stantly met open stretches of water and vast areas of
melted slush. Since then I have talked with many
other explorers Sverdrup, Amundsen, Bartlett,
Stefdnsson, and several Russians and they agree with
Nansen that the ice is not too thick and that it is
the difficulties of the surface that make polar travel
Take a submarine built to this order: its top like
a toboggan or a ski with a downward inclined bow;
the axis inclined a few degrees so that the bottom
of the bow is twenty feet or more below the surface;
a Sperry Autogyro steering-geargo ahead on the
motors, and you will make progress under the ice.
Now and then the boat will bob up gently in an
open lead and the batteries can be recharged. If you
don't strike open water what of it? My United
States Patent No. 638,342, filed April 4, 1898, shows
means for drilling up through the ice and projecting
two casings to the open air. Through one fresh air
would be taken in, through the other noxious gases
expelledas simple as that. Tests show that the drill-
ing can be done at the rate of one foot a minute with
a three horse-power motor. The recharged batteries
would be good for about one hundred miles at a
Irving Bacheller, then editor of the New York;
World, heard of my talk to the Johns Hopkins fac-
ulty in 1898, and wrote me that he hoped to interest
the elder Pulitzer in building an under-ice boat. But
Bacheller's novel Eben Holden appeared and made
such a sensational success that he abandoned news-
paper work, and I grew interested in other things.
In 1904 I made an entirely successful run under
the ice of Narragansett Bay, taking with me Major
Arthur Murray, later chief of Coast Artillery, and
Captains E. J. Bailey and C. E. Parker. In Russia
I made some further experiments and was about to
arrange for the construction of an under-ice boat for
that government. The Russians planned to ship under
the ice from the Baltic to their Pacific coast instead
of by the Suez Canal, but the war with Japan ended
and the project was dropped. I discussed the idea at
a dinner given me by the president and directors of
the North German Lloyd in Bremerhaven in 1908,
but we were all too busy just then to do anything
about it. Yet it was out of this talk that the Deutsch-
land evolved. Other things engaged my attention
until the Lake Company was closed down by Lord
Balfour's raid on the United States. One day I read
an interview with Sir Hubert Wilkins, who had just
made his first flight across the Arctic:
SUBMARINES IN THE FUTURE 289
"There were no suitable landing places," he said.
"I think the Pole could most easily be reached by
I met him along with Captain Sloan Danenhower,
who had at one time been in command of subma-
rines in the United States Navy, and later had rep-
resented the Navy in charge of our builders' trials
at Bridgeport during the testing of new submarines.
The Lake-Danenhower Company was formed, the
plan being to use the old Defender, built in 1907,
but later we were able to borrow the O-I2 from the
Navy. It was a much larger and more powerful ves-
sel and was one of those scheduled for destruction
under the Balfour agreement. We agreed to pay one
dollar a year and, when we were through with her,
return her to the Navy for destruction.
I designed a new superstructure and put in a
diving compartment which later enabled scientists
to collect specimens of arctic marine life through
an opened door. I understand that the craft itself
functioned perfectly, but for various reasons Sir
Hubert Wilkins and Captain Danenhower were so
anxious to get away on the voyage that they took a
chance, and sailed with engines and electric equip-
ment in very bad condition. An engine cylinder was
cracked, two of the pumps were not in condition, the
ice drill- and conning-tower were not functioning
properly, and I have been told that one of the large
yokes of the generator motor was loose in the rack.
In marine engineering, and especially in submarine
engineering, there is almost no such thing as a minor
defect. A little trouble is apt to multiply into many
Therefore the Wilkins-Danenhower expedition
failed of reaching its goal, but it did prove the prac-
ticability of traveling through and under heavy ice.
It seems that much valuable data was accumulated in
determining the contour of the arctic water bed, and
I understand that Dr. Sverdrup, one of the scientists
on the expedition who spent many hours in the div-
ing compartment, is preparing a book describing this
work. One of these days some one, government, trans-
portation company, or well-to-do individual, will build
the right kind of a submarine for under-ice and
commercial work, and overnight it will be accepted
as other mechanical advances of the day have been.
Such a submarine should be more rugged than the
military type, and the propelling machinery should
be designed for giving a powerful thrust at a slow
speed rather than for fast going. The expensive in-
stallations required for armament and for quick sub-
mergence could be dispensed with and the cost re-
duced to about one-fourth of a military craft.
When one considers that about three-quarters of
the earth's surface is covered with water and that
there are treasures known to be awaiting us in the
depths, it seems certain that eventually commercial-
type submarines will be found in every sea. It has
recently been reported that the radium content of
the red clay found a certain place on the sea bot-
tom is far greater than in the richest ore as yet dis-
covered. Gold can be washed out on the sea bottom,
SUBMARINES IN THE FUTURE
the cargoes of sunken ships can be recovered, pearls
found, sponges taken, and perhaps who knows?
that old road that leads down into the sea may be
traced direct to the Lost Continent.
I'd like to make that trip over the bottom that
Dr. Beebe talks about and, perhaps, drift the boat
through the streets of Atlantis and peer in through
the windows of the drowned palaces. Who knows?
A Confession of Failure
IN all my life I have made only two complete fail-
ures. I think that is a record to be proud of.
I do not mean that everything I have attempted
has been a success. I have spent time on ideas that
were later dropped for other ideas that were more
timely or more interesting. But there has always been
something at the root of whatever it was I have been
working on. I have gotten out patents and forgotten
them. I have started many a rabbit down many a
track and let it get away. But I have only failed
twice when I undertook to retire.
That cannot be done, not by Simon Lake, at least.
I have never had more all-inclusive misery than while
I was trying to live up to my fortune and have a
good time. I could not form the habit of loafing.
I do not like to play. My feet get tired when I tramp
through picture galleries although I can stand on
a steel deck all day. I am a prey to every form of
pest from sand-gnats to black flies. I get sick. I lose
interest in things. Until I get back to work I am a
total loss. The second time I retired from retiring
I told my wife, 'Til never retire again. I'd rather die.
broke than kill myself trying to have a good time."
The first time I retired from business was in 1915.
A CONFESSION OF FAILURE
The Bridgeport plant was going, it made me a good
income, I had a comfortable sum in the bank, and
I had worked hard all my life. Most business men
reach a point sooner or later when they think that
idleness will be pleasant. I am not sure now whether
I reached that point under my own steam or was
pushed up to it by my womenfolk. At all events I
got out of everything I could get out of, cleared
decks for action, and, with Mrs. Lake and our young-
est daughter, started for the Panama-Pacific Exposi-
tion. I had everything that goes into the making of
a good time except a willingness to quit work.
Mrs. Lake began, operations by coming down with
ptomaine poisoning in Salt Lake City. I was pretty
badly scared for a few days. Then we went on to
San Francisco and all three of us caught colds. Mine
almost amounted to pneumonia. As soon as the three
determined pleasure-seekers were able to travel we
moved on to Asheville, North Carolina, to recuperate.
I could hardly walk a block by the time we got there,
and spent my time in the lobby of the Grove Park
Inn talking to the proprietor. It was a nice hotel
and he was an interesting man, having been with
Henry Ford on his Peace Expedition of December,
1915, but put together they did not recompense me
for the loss of my daily work. There's no doubt of it.
I pined for the feel of a drawing-board and a pair of
We moved on to New Orleans and found it a
good town, full of lively people and famous cooks,
but it did not compensate me for what I missed.
Cuba was pleasant but presently it ceased to keep
me out o the yawns. In Florida the fish was bad
and the milk sour, which probably accounts for the
fact that I did not get in on the beginning of the
Palm Beach boom. Plenty of chances were offered,
but none of them looked good. I am not a real-
estate speculator by nature. My speculations have
boats or diving rigs in them. I brought my family
back to Bridgeport and got into my working clothes.
In 1920 I retired again. I am willing to admit
that this was my own inspiration. I have always had
a liking for a height of land that overlooks the sea.
Something ancestral, I suppose, although four or
five generations of Lakes have lived in New Jer-
sey's flat lands. I believe that probers into pedigrees
once discovered that we have a pirate in our family
tree, however, and it may be that I inherited this
liking for an overlooking place from him. I had
bought a nice farm of 165 acres in the hills back
of Bridgeport, from which I could see clear out to
sea on a clear day, but Mrs. Lake would not live
on it* She likes the town, and, anyhow, I couldn't
let the shop alone. I quit this foolishness about re-
tiring, went back to work, lost all my money, and
have been quite happy.
If more money is needed I can make it. Only
recently I was offered $50,000 a year by a foreign gov-
ernment to oversee its program of submarine build-
ing. But I do not want to go away from home again,
and anyhow, there are too many things to do here.
A CONFESSION OF FAILURE 295
One is the salvaging of the Lusitania's cargo. I had a
contract for this with the British authorities, but
my hands were too full and it expired on December
31, 1935. The treasure of the Lutine still attracts
me. In 1937 I hunted for the wreck of the British
battleship Hussar, which sank in the North River,
above New York City, during the Revolutionary
War and was said to have had some millions in
money aboard. There is a tradition that some of this
money was salvaged by an old Connecticut Yankee,
but I would not vouch for it.
That the Hussar did sink in Hell Gate is certain.
Her anchor was recovered by an expedition in 1823,
and once her stern was lifted to the surface of the
water. But in the century that has passed, the shore-
line has changed completely. No one now knows
precisely where the old hulk rests and my explora-
tions early in 1937 were unsuccessful. I have not
given up the idea but other things are more press-
ing. I know from experience that cargoes can be
salvaged at a profit in the comparatively shallow
waters of Long Island Sound and along our coast.
There is, also, the enticing prospect of voyaging
under the ice in a Lake submarine.
Dr. William Beebe wants to take a trip with me
in a submarine built for the sole purpose of scien-
tific research. Such a boat would differ widely from
a submarine built for military purposes, and I be-
lieve that by its use many secrets of the sea could
be discovered. For centuries tradition has told of the
lost continents of Atlantis and Mu. If these sunken
lands ever existed I believe they can be found by
I would like to do something for the protection
of the interests of inventors. Lately a group of mal-
contents, theorists, academic players with economic
dynamite, have been telling the working man that
modern inventions are taking the bread out of his
mouth. If the working man can be made to see and
understand the facts he will pay no attention to
these windy demagogues.
I have been asked to go into politics and may
eventually do so, in the hope that I can aid in the
enactment of laws to protect the right of the indi-
vidual to have what he wishes and do as he pleases
so long as he does not interfere with the similar
rights of another person.
I have a book filled with patents which have been
issued to me and which for one reason or another I
have neglected. I may take some of them up again.
Meanwhile I've gone back to work and I'm happy.
One thing is certain. I will not voluntarily retire
A-i; loss of, 144
Abbot, Leon, Governor, 49
Adams, C. E., 53, 178
Adams, Jeremy, 21
Air compressor, invented, 80
Air-lock, the first, 12, 23,
*4> 55> 57> 58
Argonaut, the first, is, 13,
*5> 37* 72, 79 8 *> 8 4>
88, 91, 101, 114, 116,
121, 123, 125, 129, 229,
Argonaut Junior, 59 et seq,
Argyll family, 223
Armstrong - Whitworth
Company, 209, 210
Army Board of Investiga-
Army takes hand, 107
Atlantic City, pasture, 20
Atlantic Highlands, 59
Austrian submarines, 205
Automobile steering de-
Babcock and Wilcox, 161
Bailey, Captain Chas. J,,
Baird, Admiral, 41
Baker, George A., 39, 49
Baker, Ray Stannard, 119
Balfour, Lord Arthur, 271,
Baltimore and business, 32
Bath Iron Works, 230
Battleship vs. submarine,
87, 269, 271
Berg, Hart O., 174, 186,
202, 207, 210, 220, 26l
Beveridge, Albert J., 171
Bicycle steering device, 29
Big guns on submarines,
Billy the Roller, 183
Blackfish Hole, 61
Blunderbuss adventure, 15
Boat steering gear, 30
Booth, A. and Company,
Bottom cruising, 92, 106
Bowles, Rear-Admiral F.
Bremen's loss, 258
British policy, 207, 271
Bushnell, Dr. David, 111
Business, first venture, 31
Cainden, school in, 5
Can-capping device, 32
Canoe submarine, 24
Cappers' Union, 34
Carbon monoxide, peril of,
Cardenas, cable cutting,
Careless workmen, 236
88, 249, 253, 255, 257,
259, 263, 265, 285
Cellini, Benvenuto, 223
Champion, Bart, 59 et seq
Champion, Somers T., 59,
Charter Oak, 22
Chesapeake Bay men, 30
Chesebrough building, 54
Cisneros, Evangeline, 98
Cochran, Alex, 84
Company organized, 69,
Concrete ships, 263, 266
Connecticut charter, 21
Contracts, fixed price, 244
Cooney, Tom, 26
Craig Shipbuilding Com-
Cuban Junta, 95 et seq
Czar's daughters, 196
Sloan, 289 et seq
Daniels, Josephus, 268, 278
Decker, Karl, 98
Delfino sinks, 185
Deutschland, 251 et seq,
Devil in the river, 89
d'Eyncourt, Sir Tennyson,
"Diving boats," 42
Diving compartment, first,
Diving suit, home-made,
Efficiency experts, 276
Electric Boat Company,
81, 153* *59> l6 9> 225
Emergency Fleet Corpora-
. tion, 265
200, 205, 217
Father's activities, i, 5, 7,
9, 16, 19, 48, 203
Fels, Joseph, 282, 283
Fenian Ram, 38
First love, 6
First submarine, 12
Fishy visitors, 92
Flint, Charles R., 172, 202,
Florencia, wreck of, 221
Flying machines, 18, 226
Fortuna, 178, 183
Fortune, missed, 275
Foss, Lieutenant - Colonel
New York, 13
Foundry strike, 25 et seq
Franklin Institute, 26
Freighters. See Cargo-car-
Fulton, Robert, 112
Fun on ice, 6
Gasoline troubles, 89
German offers for cargo
Golden Days, 23
Government in wartime,
240 et seq, 259 et seq,
262, 264, 267
Grandmother. See Step-
Grosvenor, Dr. William
Grubb, Sir Howard, 142
Guns on submarines, 226
Hale, Eugene, 147
Halligan, John T., Rear-
Halstead, O. S., 37
Hampton Roads, 106
of Haswell, Charles, 28, 57,
Hawkins, Foster, 241, 243
High-wheel bicycle, 29
Hilken, Paul, 253 et seq
Hill, E. J., 171
Holland Boat Company,
Holland, J. P., 37, 40, 49,
66, 139, 147, 153, 227
Hoover, Herbert, 281
Company, 242, 266
Houses, prefabricated, 282
Hussar, wreck of, 295
Ice, under the, 165, 286
Intelligent Whale, 37
Inventors and government,
39, 52, 111, 277, 295
Inventors, Institute of, 277,
Ivens, William M., 283
Japanese show interest,
Johnson, Eades, 243, 246,
Josephine, the yacht, 151,
Kaiser Wilhelm II, 183
Keel, drop, 80
Keel, level, principle of,
41, 226, 250
Koenig, Captain, 254 et
Krupp contracts, 204 et seq,
Labor, greed of, 245
Lake, David, 18
family, 10, 18 et seq
Lake Capping Machine
Lake Torpedo Boat Com-
pany, 154, 156, 170,
178, 218, 226, 228, 274,
Lake's plans, the forerun-
ners, 30, 116, 250
Legal snarls, 159
Le Plongeur, 42
Lessler, Congressman, 156
Libau, demonstration at,
Lloyd's signs contract, 219
Lobby activities, 148 et
seq, 151, 156, 167, 232
Long Beach, 244, 275
Lusitania warning, 250
Lutine's treasure, 216, 295
Maine, mystery of, 102
Mariquita adventure, 62
Maxim, Hiram Stevens,
Mclnnis, John, 80, 84, 229
McNeill, Archibald, 242
Melville, Rear -Admiral,
149 et seq, 155
Merritt and Chapman
Company, 127, 180,
Midnight oil, 36
Miller, Frank, 22
Miller, Lebbeus, 161, 275
Mines and cables, 103, 105,
Mitsui Company, 171
Monarch, barge, 180
Money due from govern-
ment, 240, 244
Morro Castle, 98
Mother's death, i
nel Arthur, 165, 227,
Mystery of Maine, 102
Navy, Board of Construc-
Board overruled, 41, 231
contacts with, 37
ignorance of, 43, 88, 90,
io6, 108, 234, 249, 251,
lobby control of, 149,
156, 167, 232
rebuffed by, 38, 41, 49,
refuses Number Ten,,
second offer to, 48
Newspapers interested, 41,
65, 86, 90
New York venture, 48, 53,
Norris, James L., 167
Number Ten, 208
Ocean City, 20
Ocean City Foundry, 25
O'Neill, Rear - Admiral,
Oyster pirates, 31
Parker, Captain Charles F.,
Partners and rascals, 34 et
Patapsco River, 84, 89
Patent pool, 267
Patterson, Ada, 90
Patuxent River, 104
Peace Conference, 270
Peacock, Edward L., 80,
Peck's Beach, 20
Pedagogic methods, 3, 5
Periscope, invention of,
i 3 8
Pirates, oyster, 31
Platt, Senator, United
Plunger, the, 43, 72, 79, 82,
.. !47> 225
Pneumonia, ice cure for,
Powder-horn clue, 14
Princess Gecile, 183
Protector, 94, 154, 162,
164, 179, 192, 198,
Punishment in school, 3, 5
"Puttyhead" Rogers, 5
Quigg, Lemuel Eli, 158
Retirement plans, 292
Rice, Isaac L., 153
Robbins Drydock Com-
Roosevelt, Theodore, 105
Rothert subscribes, 81
Ruin, faced by, 70, 75
Russians buy first subma-
carelessness of, 187, 190
show interest, 171
technical ability, 200
8-4, loss of, 234, 235
8-48 endangered, 235 et
Safety chambers, 14, 47,
Sage, Russell, 56
Salvaging operations, 95,
130, 136, 147, 220, 226
Sampson, Admiral, 51
Saved by false teeth, 70
School days, i et seq
co-ed school, 7
end of, 9
Scott, Sir Percy, 249
Seal, 228, 230, 235, 240
Shipping Board, United
Shore Road survey, 19
Shrewsbury River, 61
Signal Hill, 275
Sigsbee, Admiral, 94
Simon, Elwood, 183
Simon Lake X, 208, 231
Sims, Admiral, 94
Singer, Isaac, 161
Smart alecks, 236
Smuggling a submarine,
176 et seq
Sooysmith, Charles, 13
Spies, 172, 174, 177, 182
Step-grandmother, i, 2, 5
Storm, 1898, 114
Straus, Nathan, 67
Submarine cargo carriers.
See Cargo - carrying
Submarine excursions, 92,
Submarine, first, 12, 44, 47
Submarine history, 37, 111
Submarine patents, 30
Submarine tube, 134, 220,
Submarine, wheels on, 12,
46, 79, 94, 129
Surface navigation in sub-
marines, 45, 115
Susan Daugherty, 122
Swindling promoter, 69 et
Taft, William Howard,
Tillman, Ben, 267
Tirpitz, Admiral von, 207,
Tobermory, treasure in
bay of, 224
Todd, W. R., 123
Toms River life, 23
Tools as toys, 10
Torpedo Boat Company.
Tractor, first, 17
Treasure hunting, 48, 128,
216, 218, 220, 224, 226,
280, 290, 295
Uncles. See Lake.
Under the ice, 165, 286
Vacation misery, 292
Verne, Jules, 10, 117
Vickers' Sons & Maxim,
Virginia Beach, 108
Walking on water, 18
Watch making, 11
Wheels on submarines, 12,
Wild money, 98, 268
Wilkins, Sir Hubert, 288
Workmen, careless, 236
Wreck finding, 131
Wright brothers, 112, 201,